Last night I challenged myself to come up with a food match sufficient to stand up against a largish Zinfandel, the DeLoach Russian River Valley 1991.

I did it simply, but using a spicy, sorta-Mexican-style dry rub on a grilled flank steak.

A "dry rub" is a neat way to add flavor to grilled meats. It's essentially nothing more than a mixture of spices that you rub on the surface of the meat several hours before cooking, to give it time to penetrate the meat and add flavor.

In this case, I went with an ad hoc blend of equal amounts of cumin and good- quality red New Mexico chile powder. I took a 1.5-pound flank steak, squeezed lime juice all over it, and then sprinkled the spice mixture over it until it was lightly colored. Ground on enough black pepper to coat, then pressed the spices all in with my bare paws. All this about four hours before dinner time, after which I left the spiced meat at room temperature to ponder its fate.

A half-hour before dinner, I prepared a very hot bed of charcoals, dropping the grill over the coals about five minutes before cooking to make the wires hot enough to burn marks on the steak. Six minutes before dinner, wham, drop the steak on the grill, close to the coals. Three minutes on the side made it well-done enough at the ends to please my wife, rare enough at the center to please me. Pull off the grill, slap on a board, slice thin diagonally across the grain and serve.

For a light summer meal, this steak with a salad and bread is enough, although I did do a side dish of the mandatory summer squash. That stuff is coming out our ears!

Anyway, the spice was fairly subtle -- the grill burns off a lot of the heat. But it added enough authority to the meat to make it a very nice match for the big red wine.