Fill The Grill Bloggers Competition: A Grill-Like Recipe For Apartment Dwellers

Last month I chronicled the winding road that was Whole Foods' "Fill The Grill" competition, where we watched chef Timon Balloo (from Midtown's perpetually crowded Sugarcane), go up against chef Michael Jacobs, (who cooks up our Miami Heat player's creative fare) for the championship title. As one of the judges, I got a really good seat, and I can tell you that the challenge was not easy for any of the participants. So, naturally I was a bit intimidated when informed that the same deal was being offered to local bloggers. We were given $20 and the run of the store, thankfully, they put no time stipulation...that 20 minutes the kitchen pro's had to prepare their recipes, would never have worked out. I do not move that fast around knives.

The issue is that I live in a very tall building, with a very dedicated management team determined to enforce a "no-grill" policy on the balcony. I do have a grill, but since it's contraband, I have hidden it away. However, I did want to create a recipe that was grill-like in nature to keep within the theme of the challenge. To me, that means meat seared at a high temperature in a cast iron skillet. It gets a high-octane sear, much like an actual flame would impart, and the air fills with the scent of smoky meat burning (in a good way). For apartment dwellers, this is as close as we can get to the real grilling experience.

Spending money was tight, $20 doesn't really go far if you are starting out with lamb chops at $16.99 per pound, so I compensated with a seriously cheap red lentil hummus, since those are only $1.79 per pound. Luckily, the cucumber, garlic, and lemon were all under a dollar as well. Since the chefs who originally competed were supplied with olive oils and spices, we assumed that pantry staples were okay here as well!

Cast Iron "Grilled" Lamb Chops with Spicy Red Lentil Hummus, Cucumber-Garlic Whipped Cream and Mint Gremolata

Spicy Red Lentil Hummus


1/2 cup red lentils
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika


Bring 1 1/2 cups water and lentils to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until lentils are soft, but still retain their shape. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.

When cooled (approximately 10 minutes should do it) transfer the lentils to a food processor, along with the lemon juice, garlic and sesame oil. Slowly add the olive oil, and if the hummus is too thick, drizzle in a tablespoon of water to desired consistency.

Add in the smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until smooth and set aside.

Cucumber-Garlic Whipped Cream


1/2 Cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, cut into long, thin strips
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup heavy cream


Add garlic and cucumber to the cream, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to low heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until reduced by half, stirring frequently.

Chill in refrigerator until completely cold (at least 30 minutes), and strain out the garlic and cucumber.

Using a hand-held mixer, whip until stiff peaks form, and return to the fridge until plating. {Don't bother trying to do this by hand, it will take forever. I tried and discovered that there is too much moisture from the cucumbers to be able to whip it into a frenzy manually, without committing your entire evening to the task.}

Mint Gremolata


1 tbsp. mint, chopped
1 tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest


Chop, zest and combine all ingredients. Set aside.

Cast Iron "Grilled" Lamb Chops


lamb chops (2 per person)
1/2 tbsp. ground fennel
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper


Combine all ingredients to make the rub and apply generously to the outside of the lamb, some of it will burn off in the skillet.

Heat cast iron skillet on medium heat to build the temperature uniformly (4 minutes should do it). Add lamb and cook 3 minutes per side, and turn the chops to get a quick one minute sear on the fat along the side opposite of the bone. Remove from heat.

Remove to a wooden board and cover the lamb chops with tin foil, allow to rest for 2-3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 for medium.

Plate the hummus first, then the lamb, and sprinkle a generous dose of the gremolata. Then grab your whipped cream out of the fridge and scoop it on top of the warm lamb. You're ready to eat!

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