Recipe Corner Cooking Techniques

Food Spa: Marinades & Dry Rubs

Herbs And SpicesOur most recent spa visit left us silky smooth, glowing -- and curiously hungry. We were massaged with salts & oils, sugar-scrubbed and body-wrapped in a (literally) delicious mixture of pineapple and papaya.

A no-nonsense grilling buddy quipped, "It sounds like y'all were preparing for a barbecue!" He had a point, and we had a revelation: Why not use the same principle to season foods for the grill?

A-ha! We came to see simple, natural marinades and rubs as a "food spa" of sorts. The whole point of marinating and dry-rubbing is to enhance the innate sweetness, saltiness, tanginess, umami (savory with oomph) of any foods that are worthy of your grilling tongs. As is often the case, the best ingredients are the simplest ones.

And the easiest, too, which suits us perfectly: Too much work leaves wrinkles. Check out this minimal-stress list of natural tenderizers that generally require nothing more than 10 minutes of prep work and, depending on the recipe, about an hour in the fridge to do their chemistry magic. (You can leave cucumber slices on your eyes while you wait.)

•Oils with food-based acids, i.e., citrus fruit/fruit juices, vinegars, wines
•Salt-based preparations: kosher salt, soy sauce are common
•Fresh/dried herbs & spices such as thyme, coriander, paprika, peppercorns
•Honey, brown sugar/molasses, agave nectar, stevia
•Milk/plain yogurt, especially for most meats

Consult the recipe for specific marinade times to avoid "cooking" your food during the marinating process, particularly for fish, veggies and fruit; you could end up with an accidental ceviche. Plus, meats can become tough if the blend is too acidic. Or, if you'd rather skip the recipe and head straight to the pour-rub-grill stage, then you'll be pleased with the unique selections of ready-made dressings & marinades, international spice blends and regional dry rubs at your area Fiesta Store.

We'll free you up to book your own spa time. Ask for Hildë.