Fire and Smoke: Wildfire Rub

These barbecue recipes will have your mouth watering before you even fire up the grill.

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Wildfire Rub  

Makes 1/2 cup

Popular in the American Southwest, dry rubs or dusts are kneaded into meats or the flesh of vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, asparagus, or beets) just before cooking or smoking. Every flame chef has a signature blend of dried herbs and spices—never salt because it draws liquids—ready to season and add grit to their grill. Make plenty of this incendiary dust and store it in a cool, dry cupboard.

• 1/4 cup dried chilies
• One 2-inch cinnamon stick
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
• 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
• 2 teaspoons coriander berries
• 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
• 1/2 teaspoon cloves

1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, roast all of the ingredients over medium heat until they emit a rich aroma, about 3 minutes.
2. Remove from heat.
3. Using a mortar and pestle (or electric grinder), pound the roasted spices to a fine powder.
4. Rub 1 to 2 tablespoons into both sides of fillets, chops, steak, or vegetables before grilling.
5. Store any leftover rub in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, away from heat and light.

For wet rubs or pastes, a variety of pungent condiments including anchovies, citrus peel, fresh garlic, berries, prepared mustard, horseradish, yogurt, or dried fruit can be ground along with the herbs and spices. Pastes are made just before each use and are often applied to one side only.

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Pat Crocker, home economist and culinary herbalist, photographs, lectures, and writes about food and herbs. Author of three cookbooks, including The Healing Herbs Cookbook (Robert Rose, 1999) and The Juicing Bible (Robert Rose, 2000), Pat enjoys grilling with her family every summer.