This nutty, sesame-dressed cooked kale recipe is based on the Japanese side dish/salad called spinach gomae. (Gomae means “sesame.”) When I was studying abroad, my Japanese home-stay mom would make spinach gomae for breakfast, along with an amazing toast with strawberry jam. I had never had anything like it: It tasted like peanut butter dressing, but not like the peanut dressing you get in Thai restaurants. It had more salt and soy and a sweetness—but not a sugary sweetness. I make gomae with kale because I don’t like the texture of blanched American spinach. Our kale is similar to the Japanese spinach, with longer, coarser leaves.
Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat until they turn a shade darker. Watch carefully; the seeds will continue to color once you've taken them off the heat. If you can smell the toasted seeds, they’ve gone too long. While still warm, but not hot, grind in a
Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin in a large bowl. Whisk in the ground sesame seeds.
To stem each leaf of kale, hold the stem in one hand and use your other hand to strip the tender parts from the stem.
Cut the stemmed kale crosswise into 1-inch pieces.
In batches, add the kale to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove with a spider or drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the kale with your hands to remove most of the moisture. Let cool. (Gomae is often served warm, but I like to serve it cold.)
Add the blanched kale to the dressing in the large bowl and toss until coated.