Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
Many of the world’s greatest culinary discoveries were made serendipitously. But very few were as impactful as the discovery of using spices to flavor and preserve food.
Anthropologists have shown that thousands of years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would often wrap their kill in leaves and bark to preserve and transport the contents inside. Only later did they discover that this method of preservation could also improve the taste of their food.
And so the worlds’ love affair with spices began…
SPICES & HERBS: THE CULINARY CURATIVES
As civilization advanced, the use of spices became ubiquitous in culinary tradition. But it wasn’t just for their flavor-enhancing abilities. It was also for the health-promoting properties they possessed:
Texts from Ancient Egypt (1555 BC) deemed coriander, fennel, juniper, cumin, garlic and thyme as powerful medicine. It is also known that laborers who constructed the Great Pyramid of Cheops consumed onion and garlic as a means to promote health.
• Black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom have been used by Indians for thousands of years for both culinary and health purposes.
• Hippocrates wrote extensively about spices and herbs, including saffron, cinnamon, thyme, coriander, mint, and marjoram. Of the 400 herbal remedies he created, at least half are still used today.
• Theophrastus, the “Father of Botany”, authored two books summarizing the knowledge of over 600 spices and herbs.
• Dioscorides, a Greek Physician of the 1st century, authored De Materia Medica – an extensive medical and botanical guide that was used for over 1,500 years.
• In the Middle Ages (600-1200 AD), European apothecaries used herbs and Asian spices including ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron and cardamom in their remedies.
• Plants were used as the primary source of medicine in the United States from the time of the Mayflower (1620) until after World War I (1930).
Science now proves that the instincts and knowledge of our ancestors were correct: Spices and herbs can be powerful medicine. In fact, countless studies show that herbs and spices possess a wide range of beneficial phytonutrients that can kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. They also act as powerful antioxidants and can promote cellular health, reduce inflammation, and more.
And one of the most convenient ways to harness the health-and-flavor enhancing power of herbs and spices is a homemade dry rub.
4 CHEF-INSPIRED DRY RUBS: POTENT FLAVOR – WITH BENEFITS
Complimenting just about every kind of food – from meat, chicken, fish and vegetables – a dry rub is a combination of herbs, salt and spices that is applied before grilling, broiling, baking or roasting.
As you know, there are many commercial seasoning blends available. However, these often contain chemical preservatives, MSG, anti-caking agents and other unsavory additives. By creating your own custom combinations at home, you can ensure a higher quality, additive-free product that is personalized to your tastes.
Using just one or two spices and herbs can produce delicious results. But if you really want to elevate your food to new heights, don’t be afraid to experiment with new ingredients and unique combinations. You can make a dry rub from nearly any combination of herbs, spices and salt. Here are four chef-tested dry rubs to try in your cooking:
Use On: This exceptionally versatile Middle Eastern spice mix can be used on every kind of meat, fish or vegetable.
The Blend: ¼ cup sumac, 2 Tbsp. dried thyme, 1 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds, 2 Tbsp. dried marjoram, 2 Tbsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. sea salt
Yield: ~2 Tbsp.
Ras El Hanout
Use On: The name of this Moroccan spice mix translates to “head of the shop” – as it often includes the best spices the purveyor has to offer. Try on grass-fed steaks, wild-caught salmon and chicken.
The Blend: 2 tsp. ground ginger, 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Yield: ~ ¼ cup
Mediterranean Dry Rub
Use On: This classic blend goes with just about anything – from pastured pork, lamb and chicken to wild seafood.
The Blend: ¾ cup dried basil , ¼ cup dried thyme , 2 Tbsp. dried sage, 2 Tbsp. fennel seeds, 1 Tbsp. sea salt, 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
Yield: ~1¼ cups
BBQ Dry Rub
Use On: A classic BBQ favorite that complements pastured chicken, ribs, and brisket
The Blend: ¼ cup paprika, 2 Tbsp. granulated garlic, 2 Tbsp. granulated onion, 2 tsp. black peppercorns, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 Tbsp. cumin seed (toasted), 3 Tbsp. coriander seed (toasted), 1/4 cup sea salt, 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
Yield: ~1 ¼ cups
TIPS FOR USING DRY RUBS
Now that you have a few flavor combinations to start with, I’d like to share how you can maximize the seasoning power and life span of your dry rubs:
Toast to Get the Most: Many spices – especially cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander and cumin – benefit from a little heat. A brief toast in a dry skillet will coax more flavor out of these in particular.
Grind Fine: Finely milling your spice and herb blends allows more surface area to come into contact with your food, producing deeper flavor. Use a spice mill or coffee grinder to powder your dry rub to a uniform consistency.
Prepare The Canvas: For each pound of meat, poultry, or seafood coat entire surface with 2 to 3 teaspoons melted lard, tallow, duck fat or coconut oil. Then apply one to two tablespoons of dry rub.
Coat Well: When using dry rubs, coat the entire surface of the food, ensuring it sticks. Not only will this ensure you get the full flavor effect, but it will also produce a beautiful crust. To produce a stronger flavor, cover pre-rubbed meats or chicken and refrigerate to allow the flavors to penetrate for up to 24 hours. Then cook as desired.
Store Properly: Spices and herbs lose potency, and light, heat and oxygen speed this loss. Store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Adding dry rubs to your cooking repertoire won’t just add more flavor to your food, but also more health-promoting nutrients. So season often and liberally with these flavor-packed dry rubs, and change up the spices and herbs you use to get the full-spectrum of their healing powers.
We would love to hear from you. Do you use dry rubs in your cooking? If so, do you have a favorite combination?
Read more articles by Kelley Herring here.
Kelley Herring is the author of the new book Better Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Better Breads…
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