Word on Food: Spice Rubs

by Norman Van Aken

If you like the idea of memorable flavors - flavors with musical re-verb, resonance and improved texture, let me suggest that spice rubs should be in your repertoire.

It is a spice rub that gives Scandinavian gravlax its texture. The dill is a flavoring agent. The spices that are pressed into the salmon alter its composition enzymatically.

When I first started preparing my own gravlax I read about its history in the great A.J. Mc Clane’s, “Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery”. I realized that I could change the dill and vodka and create other flavors.

The freedom to do this led me to understand that various spice rubs could give me my own variety of personal expressions that I wanted in my food. You can create your very own blends too.

Two of the most common ingredients in any spice rub are sugar and salt. The salt is the real dominatrix in any mix. She supplies the most whip in terms of texture. But then the choir of say - cumin, black pepper, cayenne, chilies, or dried lemongrass kicks in and you’ve created a blend. This would be rubbed on raw chicken, pork, meat or fish an hour or so before cooking. You will be happy to see how much flavor there is in this.

I tend to organize my spice rubs geographically. I use the spices often associated with an Oriental aesthetic for one type and then the spices say associated with Caribbean cookery for another. Of course I break my own rules and create a fusion blend if it makes sense too.

A quick one for you…

Blend 1 Tablespoon of toasted and ground cumin with 1 Tablespoon of toasted and ground black pepper to ½ Tablespoon salt and ½ Tablespoon of sugar. Rub this on a couple of chicken breasts and let them chill covered for an hour or so. Then grill or roast them.

You may end up rubbing your belly.

I'm Norman Van Aken and that's my "Word on Food".