2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
4 medium cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
1 large tomato (or 2 medium), cored and finely chopped
2+ tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves/stems
2 tsp Kolhapuri masala (see recipe below)
1 tsp kosher salt
0.5 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup shredded fresh coconut or ½ cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted [to reconstitute the dried coconut, cover with ½ cup of boiling water, set aside for 15 minutes and then drain]
1 tbsp of coconut milk (optional)
1 tsp of sugar (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the skillet, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds.
2. Throw in the garlic slivers, which will turn light brown almost immediately in the hot oil. Quickly add masala, salt, and turmeric and add the tomato and cilantro immediately after that. Once the salsa starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.
3. Stir in the coconut, which will thicken the salsa. After letting it warm for a minute or two, taste and add salt if needed. If the salsa is too spicy, you can add coconut milk and/or sugar to help moderate the heat.
Kolhapuri Masala (red-hot chile and coconut blend)
Makes 1.25 cups of spice mix
1 cup dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed (crushed red pepper also works)
0.5 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp white sesame seeds (whole)
1 tbsp coriander seeds (whole)
1 tbsp cumin seeds (whole)
1 tbsp black peppercorns (whole)
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds (whole)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (whole)
4 blades of mace
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tsp canola oil
2 tbsp ground Kashmiri chiles; or 0.5 tbsp ground cayenne mixed with 1.5 tbsp sweet paprika
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the ground Kashmiri chiles in a medium size bowl, and stir to coat with the oil. (Coating the whole spices evenly with the oil ensures an even roast, and is much easier to do in a bowl rather than a skillet.)
2. Preheat a medium size skillet over medium heat. Pour the oiled spices into the skillet and roast the blend, stirring constantly, until the chiles blacken slightly, the coconut turns dark brown, the sesame, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek turn reddish brown, the mustard seeds pop, swell up, and look ash black, and the bay leaves appear dry, 3-4 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer the pungent nutty smelling spices to a place to cool. (The longer they sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that they will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.)
4. Once they are cool to the touch, place the spices in a spice grinder and grind until the texture resembles that of a finely ground black pepper. (If you don’t allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend somewhat “cakey.”)
5. Depending on the size of your spice grinder, you may need to grind several smaller portions one after another. After you have ground all the roasted spices, stir in the ground Kashmiri chiles.
6. Store in a tightly sealed jar, away from excess light, heat and humidity, for up to 2 months. (Refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavors.)