September 21, 2022
The word masala may be common in the Indian lexicon but many still mistake marsala (sweet Italian wine) for masala.
Masala is, quite simply, a blend of spices and seasonings; a mixture of cumin, coriander, kalonji, fennel and fenugreek seeds make the famous Bengali 5-spice mix, used in stews or pilafs. An aromatic blend such as whole green cardamom, cloves, black pepper and cinnamon sticks is pounded to make chai masala. The Kashmiris make an intense masala called “ver”; a combination of garlic, cumin, pounded bright red chiles and more. It is packed into small discs and sun dried to use during long, cold winter months. South Indians make numerous masalas called podis; usually made with pungent spices, lentils and oil. They can be used in cooking, sprinkled on top of food, or tossed into salads.
Masalas do not have to be complex — they can be as simple as parsley, garlic, black pepper and olive oil. Having a masala in your kitchen cabinet or refrigerator is a great hack to whipping up a quick meal.
1/2+ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed green cardamom seeds
2 cups minced red onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups of minced mixed wild mushrooms
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Makes 2 cups
In a large sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil, and when it is almost smoky, pop the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds. Be careful not to burn the seeds — if so, start again. The tempering or the pop only takes 2 to 3 seconds; immediately after, add the minced onions. Cook on medium to high heat, stirring frequently until the onions have sweated and have some color. This will take 7 to 8 minutes or more. Add the garlic then the mushrooms, black pepper and salt and cook on medium heat, covered until the mushrooms have reduced and all the liquid has been absorbed. If the mixture appears dry, add 2 to 3 more tablespoons olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If using dry mushrooms, soak in water for 2 to 3 hours, drain and mince.
The mushroom masala will keep in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 days or in the freezer for 6 months.
The cardamom is added early in the cooking process to soften the bite and flavor. If replacing with ground cardamom, add it at the end.
December 02, 2022