/imgs/articles/spicerack.jpgIf the mosquito is the most ubiquitous phenomenon of the summer, surely the backyard barbecue runs a close second. And what the barbecue inevitably spawns is the marinade, that delectable emollient that at once soothes and enhances the fare of the evening. Most often a marinade consists of a moderately priced oil, an acid, such as wine or vinegar, and seasonings - a combination similar to a salad dressing. Food authorities preach that the acid tenderizes the meat, while the seasonings suspended in the oil flavor it. Until recently, recipes for dry marinades (most often a blend of dried spices and herbs) were seldom offered as an option because it was believed that "dry marinating" drew out too much moisture. Well, life goes on and the opinions of food authorities can be as capricious as the weather. The odium of the day will inevitably become this season's darling. So welcome to the dry rub marinade.

A "dry marinade," more often called a "rub," is a massage given to meat, seafood, fowl - even vegetables -immediately before cooking or a few hours prior to grilling. In many ways, it is similar to any seasoning mix that one might use to make a quick salad dressing, add to flavor rice or meatloaf. A dry marinade, when it is applied to the food's surface, is never subtle. The flavor is intense when one takes a bite.  How much flavor actually permeates the meat is determined by how long before cooking time it is applied.  And yes, it may draw out a bit of juice, especially if left on the meat in the refrigerator overnight, but not enough flavor is lost to be worrisome.

The use of dry marinades is actually a return to our Early American roots. Households kept family blends on their shelves. A mixture of complementary herbs and spices stored on the pantry shelf not only made efficient sense to the overworked housewife but, equally important, gave character to the food from the family pot or off her roasting spit.  Furthermore blending the ingredients in advance gave the seasonings time to fuse, resulting in a unique-to-the-family seasoning sometimes referred to as kitchen pepper.

Recently, spice companies recognizing the efficiency and marketability of herb and spice blends to be used as rubs, have bombarded store shelves and mail order catalogues with these versatile mixtures. Ann Wilder, President of Vann's Spices in Baltimore and packager of blends for many major companies, was  one of the first marketers of blends. She began promoting her Beijing, Mediterranean, and Barbecue rubs over fifteen years ago. "I have always loved rubs!" she says. "The spicy crust provides a great flavor contrast to the interior."  She goes on to say that a final advantage to using rubs is that making a separate sauce becomes unnecessary. The juices given off by the meat make a perfectly seasoned accompaniment.
 David Rosengarten on his TV Food Network program  "Taste" offered the following  "Dry Rub for Ribs."
4 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons celery salt
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons cumin
2 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 Tablespoon ground oregano
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 Teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 Teaspoons sage leaves or rosemary leaves crumbled
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 Teaspoon dry mustard
Combine all ingredients. Store in a jar with tight fitting lid. Makes enough to coat 3 to 4 slabs of ribs.

The following is my own recipe for a lamb kebob marinade. Yellow, red, or green peppers, onion wedges, mushrooms (quartered if large) parboiled and cherry tomatoes make a good choice of vegetables to mix with the lamb.

Lamb Shish Kebob Rub

1         teaspoon  ginger
1/2      teaspoon  cinnamon
1/2      teaspoon  cumin
1         teaspoon  paprika
1         teaspoon  black pepper
1         teaspoon  ginger
1/2      teaspoon  salt
1/2      teaspoon  sugar
1        pound  lamb kebob cubes

Mix all dry ingredients together

Place lamb cubes in a bowl and thoroughly toss with rub. 

Let set four hours at room temperature, turning the cubes every hour or set in refrigerator overnight.

Putting cubes and parboiled vegetables on skewers, baste with olive oil as  you grill them with. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water before using to prevent burning

Serve kebobs with a non-fat yogurt flavored to taste with lemon zest and freshly chopped  mint.