Lentils and Ru

Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race started up again 2 weeks ago, and so did my dinner and Ru tradition! If you’re not familiar, RuPaul is a drag queen who gained popularity back in the 90’s with her hit song Supermodel (You Better Work). RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality show on Logo where several drag queens compete to become “America’s next drag superstar.” Last year, it became a weekly event for me to cook dinner for a few friends and then watch Ru. “Indian Night” turned out to be a favorite dinner from last year, so I decided to kick off this season with Indian food.

Indian cooking can be overwhelming and intimidating due to the usually super long list of ingredients that are sometimes unattainable here and the time consuming preparation. It’s one of my favorite cuisines, but I don’t cook it very often because of the aforementioned reasons. Indian cookery also varies by region and household, so it’s hard for me to choose which recipes I want to try. I found some pretty easy, slightly Americanized versions from Cooking Light that are good crowd pleasers. Fortunately for us El Pasoans, Indian ingredients can be found at some grocery stores, Spice Market (westside, next to Chut-ney on N. Mesa), RV International (also on Mesa), Jerusalem International Foods (Mesa), some Asian import stores (northeast and east), and World Market (east).

Side Note: The Vegetarian Society may offer authentic Indian cooking classes in the spring! I’ll keep you updated.

For the following lentil recipe, I like to use small lentils that I buy at Jerusalem International Foods. They don’t cook quicker, but they have a more tender texture that I like. I also puree the can of diced tomatoes because some household members are opposed to chunks of tomato in their food. I also always make sure to pick up some naan bread (Indian flat bread) at the Walmart Neighborhood Market.

Lentils Eleganza!
Yield: 6 cups

1 tbsp. olive oil
½-1 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp. ground cumin)
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. crushed red pepper

4 garlic cloves minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 2 c. chopped fresh tomato)

2 ½ c. water
1 c. dried lentils
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
¾ tsp. salt

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 5 ingredients; saute 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomato; saute 1 minute. Stir in water and lentils; bring to a boil.
  3. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  4. Stir in lime juice, cilantro, and salt.

Cover Girl Curry
Yield: 4 cups
Original recipe can be found here (contains chicken)

1 tbsp. olive oil
½ c. diced onion

1-2 tsp. ground cumin (I use 1)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 1/3 c. veggie broth
½ c. lite coconut milk

¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground red pepper

fresh (cooked) or frozen (thawed) vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, & peas
1 tbsp. cornstarch

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute for 2 minutes. Add next 4 ingredients; cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste, stirring constantly.
  2. Add broth, coconut milk, and veggies; bring to a simmer.
  3. Mix cornstarch with a bit of cold water. Slowly stir into curry mixture until blended and thickened. Add more cornstarch if necessary.
  4. Serve with lentils and Basmati rice or Thai Jasmine rice.
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