Sometimes the story of how we got a recipe is almost as interesting as the recipe itself. This great side dish fits into this category. We have long been fans of local food writer Mary Ellen Evans, who has translated traditional French cooking into recipes we can enjoy here in the middle of America. It just so happens Ms. Evans originally lived here in Minnesota as well.
Furthermore, Mary Ellen Evans frequently mentions one of her friends, Raghavan Iyer, who is a renowned chef and food writer in his own right. And guess what? He lives here in the Twin Cities, too! We already own and have used recipes from his book 660 Curries, and we found this recipe in a newspaper article discussing Mr. Iyer’s new book, Indian Cooking Unfolded. We strongly recommend both this recipe and his new book!
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
2-3 dried cayenne or arbol chiles, stems discarded
¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut shreds
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cups sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 medium-size tomato, cored and finely chopped
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, usually after 2-4 minutes, add coriander seeds and chiles. The seeds will start to crackle a bit and turn reddish-brown and chiles will blacken slightly, after 1-2 minutes. Quickly add the coconut and keep stirring constantly as the coconut will start to brown and smell nutty almost instantly and impart a slightly oily sheen. Transfer spicy coconut to a small bowl or plate to cool.
Pour oil into the hot skillet. It will instantly appear to shimmer. Add mustard seeds, cover the skillet and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Immediately add onion and stir-fry until light brown, about 2 minutes.
Add corn and ½ cup of water. Stir once or twice and cover the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and let the corn cook gently, stirring occasionally, until it is still juicy sweet when tasted and not overly cooked, 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer the cooled coconut to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind it to the consistency of slightly coarse black pepper. Add ground coconut spice blend to the corn along with the tomato and salt. Let it all simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato is warmed through, about 1 minute. Serve warm.
Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish.
Here is a picture of our sweet corn with toasted coconut. We used purple heirloom tomatoes, so allow for the color change from what you might expect.