Getting Out of the Rut

November 4, 2010

It’s been over two weeks since I last posted a main course recipe.  It hasn’t been two weeks since I cooked a main course, but sometimes cooking and posting do not go hand in hand.  Truthfully, I have been in a bit of a cooking rut lately.  I feel restless and agitated which is not conducive to good menu planning.  When I feel this way, I tend to want to revisit things I have already made and that does not an interesting food blog make.  (Curiously, I seem to have no problem with baking.  Hmmm.)

The best way to get out of a rut, in my opinion, is to choose a type of cuisine that you love and then turn to a cookbook that you trust.  In my ennui, I picked up my still relatively new but already much beloved copy of Plenty and begged it to inspire me.  Of course, it did.

The mere fact that I have a “noodles” category on my side bar (which is different from the “pasta” category) should tell you that I am passionate about Asian noodles.  I will happily eat any variety but I think rice noodles are my favorite.  Pair them with a homemade curry paste and coconut milk and we are venturing into “I could eat this everyday” territory.  I’ve made other variations on this theme before but this particular recipe had me swooning.  The curry paste is incredibly flavorful and actually, not hot.  I seeded my chiles because, although I love spice, you just never know.  I won’t next time.

Some notes and tips.  Ottolenghi instructs you to toss both the cooked noodles and broccolini with sesame oil.  I opted out of that to keep the dish healthier and also because I couldn’t see that distinctive sesame flavor as welcome here.  I made the mistake of adding Kaffir lime leaves to both the paste and the noodles and wow – yum.  I’ll continue to do that.  Ottolenghi says you can make this noodle dish with a store-bought green curry paste in a pinch but I say his paste is precisely what makes it taste magical, as stated above.  Do yourself a favor and double it.  This kind of paste can keep for several weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.  The changes I made are reflected in the recipe below.

One Year Ago: Holly B’s Lemon Sour Cream Muffins and Tomato Leek Soup
Two Years Ago: Harira Soup and Fattoush Salad

Broccolini with Rice Noodles
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 4

My Whole Foods always has Kaffir lime leaves.  Wide rice noodles are specified in the book but I couldn’t find them so I used Pad Thai width.  I would avoid the ones that are angel hair width.

1 pound broccolini, cut into florets with long stems
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. brown sugar
7  Kaffir lime leaves
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk
1 14-ounce package rice noodles
Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnish
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Spice Paste
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium green chiles, seeded (or not) and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer and tough ends removed, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
7 Kaffir lime leaves
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
Grated zest and juice of 1 small lime

Start by making the paste.  Place all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and blend to a paste.  You might need to stop once or twice to scrape the mixture back down from the sides of the bowl or add a little water to it to loosen it up.

Sauté the onion with the oil in a medium saucepan for 3 or 4 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the curry paste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add a teaspoon of salt, the sugar, lime leaves and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Bring two medium saucepans of salted water to a boil  In one, cook the rice noodles for 3-6 minutes (check the package instructions and don’t overcook them).  In the other cook the broccolini for 2 minutes.  Drain each one and run cold water over them, running your fingers through the noodles to make sure they aren’t sticking together.  Squeeze the lime juice over the noodles and sprinkle with salt.

Divide the noodles among shallow bowls and top with the broccolini.  Spoon the sauce over top and garnish with the chopped cilantro and lime wedges.


  1. I always have a hard time finding the right type of Asian noodle specified in various recipes. We don’t have that many options at our ‘regular’ grocery stores. And, finding kaffir lime leaves has always been hit or miss which is why I finally bought a tree of my own. I’m thinking this dish could definitely be “I could eat this everyday” territory for me!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — November 4, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  2. We all get in our ruts!!! seems like I am in one all the time!!!lol

    Comment by leslie — November 4, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  3. I recently bought some curry paste which made me wonder how easy it would be to make it instead. I look forward to trying it.

    Comment by Anna — November 4, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  4. I definitely know how you feel at times. sometimes it really is nice just to go back to old stand-bys. comfort food. Plus I always always always appreciate your baked goods recipes. so I’m not complaining :P

    I am a huge Asian noodle fan as well, especially rice noodles. Love the texture. This Thai-infused noodle recipe sounds like something I would adore. I really need to seek out kaffir lime leaves in my whole foods. I feel like I haven’t done the most diligent job of it. Are yours in the freezer section or fresh?

    Comment by Joanne — November 5, 2010 @ 12:33 am

  5. […] Taking a page from Dana’s book, I picked up my copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty the other day, in search of some inspiration. I knew it would yield something good- after all, the restaurant itself never fails to impress (I ate there last week with my Mum; divine as usual). Within seconds of flipping to the chapter entitled “The Mighty Aubergine”, I found what I was looking for: a recipe for Aubergine Tricolore, a witty take on bruschette that uses actual grilled eggplant slices as the “bread”. […]

    Pingback by More of the same: Tricolore Eggplant Bruschetta – A cooking blog - Kitchenist — November 5, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  6. Yum! I keep trying to cheat and use the store bought curry paste. Never turns out that great, so I had pretty much given up. I will make the effort to make this curry paste, as it doesn’t sound all that hard, just takes getting those lime leaves and lemon grass from somewhere:) Reading this post has my mouth watering, so I think it will be worth it. Thanks for posting!

    Comment by Mara — November 5, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  7. Oh man. I know about ruts. I’m in one nearly all the time. I am tired at night these days and cooking is difficult and (sometimes) sort of uncomfortable too. I love this dish. It’s a great comeback post! xo

    Comment by redmenace — November 5, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

  8. Sounds like you got out of your cooking rut quite splendidly! This looks delicious, can’t wait to get my hands on some broccolini and give this recipe a try! Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Laura — November 6, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

  9. I can relate to being in a cooking rut. This year my new year’s resolution was to cook one new recipe a week. It’s the first resolution I’ve actually been able to keep!

    Comment by Cristy — November 7, 2010 @ 2:26 am

  10. Glad to know I am not the only one..seems I have run into failures lately and can’t get over the hump.

    Comment by Connie Bearden — November 8, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  11. That’s a truly inspiring dish – can’t wait to try it. And, come to think of it, I have a bottle of kaffir lime vodka collecting dust in the liquor cabinet. Suddenly I’m envisioning this meal preceded by a ginger-lime martini and a bowl of cashews. Happy hour?

    Comment by Kristen — November 8, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  12. I know how you feel about being in a cooking rut… Happens to the best of us. This dish is spectacular, though… I love noodles, too, and adding in broccolini? I’m sold!

    Comment by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — November 11, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  13. Oh my god this is so good! I made it tonight. Didn’t have broccolini so used the last of the seasons’s sweet Italian red peppers and leeks I had in the fridge and just sauteed those with the onion. I also only had one 8-oz package of phad thai noodles but the quantity turned out perfectly. Also used the regular, full fat coconut milk. It was one of those dishes I just couldn’t stop eating. I think the Kaffir lime leaves and the lemon grass are what take this to such a great level. Thanks for posting such a keeper!

    Comment by Katherine Deumling — November 13, 2010 @ 3:08 am

  14. I love Asian noodle dishes too! Love the sound of this one.

    Comment by Ashley — January 19, 2011 @ 4:14 am

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