As I breathe in my last whiffs of our neighbors’ charcoal grills it’s finally setting in that summer is coming to an end. As the sun sets (earlier and earlier) and the temperature shifts (cooler and cooler) those dormant “back to school” feelings somehow rise from the dead. But when I catch an earthy, fire-y waft drifting through our apartment windows, I remember that summer will eventually make its way back around again.
Until it does, I’ve discovered a way to grill year round! If you’re imagining me shoveling the fire escape and setting up a mini weber camping grill in a puffer jacket, stop right there.
I’ve discovered a tool so simple and wonderful I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never owned one before. Yes, yes, yes–a grill pan!
This particular cooking method imparts flavor, texture and beauty. Grill marks are beautiful on any protein, vegetable, cheese or even fruit. Grilled poundcake? Awesome. But more important than physical beauty is the ability for the grill pan to create char and contrast you can’t otherwise get in a standard pan. Char + Contrast = FLAVOR.
There are however some obvious differences between grilling on a real grill and a grill pan. The main one is heat. On a grill, you have flames that come through the grate and radiate into whatever you’re grilling. The heat is much more intense and you can usually cook your meat through without issue. On a grill pan I’ve found that although the char flavor is awesome in moderation, you don’t want to leave whatever you’re grilling on the pan long enough to cook all the way through. My philosophy is, get the marks and char you want and transfer it to the oven to finish off the cooking process.
Grilling also reminds me of classic picnic sides like coleslaw, potato salad and slices of cold watermelon. But for this glorious picnic occasion I decided to step a little out of my comfort zone and pair my asian inspired chicken wings with a crunchy, light, refreshing salad. The watermelon, cucumber, wheat berry salad is the perfect foil–salty, spicy, sweet, cold and crunchy for a hot (or cool) summer day.
So here’s to the last day of summer–and to wings, wheat berries and watermelon!
Ginger Soy Wings
5 pounds chicken wings, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 2×1′ piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
Bring all ingredients and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve honey. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, 7–8 minutes. Strain into a medium bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes to thicken slightly.
Marinate the wings over night or at least 6 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat grill pan until HOT. Place wings on, watching closely and flipping once you start to see grill marks. Transfer onto baking sheet and cook for 35 minutes in the oven until crispy and juices from chicken run clear.
Wheat Berry Watermelon Salad
4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into generous 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups of wheat berries, cooked, drained and cooled (I boil mine for about an hour)
3 cups Asian or English cucumbers (about 2 large cucumbers), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 ½ tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp seeded and finely diced jalapeño, or to taste
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Black pepper to taste
Combine wheat berries, cucumbers, lime juice, lime zest, hoisin, jalapeño, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix until all ingredients are well coated. Add the cold, cubed watermelon and give it one final toss. Serve immediately.