I dare to eat many things. My tolerances for sweet, spicy, tangy, bitter are higher than average, I’d like to admit. My cooking realities, however, must also suit another adult (Dave, who is, perhaps, slightly less whimsical than I am) and a six-year-old, who has age-appropriate taste biases. When I discovered the recipe for “Curry Noodles in Coconut Milk Broth,” at Veggie Belly, I imagined the three of us could hold hands and safely eat a slightly spicy meal, smoothed by soothing brown sugar and coconut milk. So what happened? The spicy heat was inedible by my young child, and Dave sweat profusely as he ate his noodles. But I liked the spice! Read on…

I doubled this recipe, to make 4-6 servings. The toppings, garnishes, and condiments were fun to assemble. I did indeed make my own crispy noodles. After cooking 8 oz. of whole-wheat lo mein noodles, I set aside 1 cup of them and deep-fried them in safflower oil, to get the great crunchy garnish that we all love from the Chinese takeout. The recipe asks for “pickled mustard greens,” so I used radish kimchee, which I purchased pre-made, in a jar (it’s spicy!). And I used chives instead of green onion.

I was happy to combine shiitakes, zucchini, carrots, and corn (I used frozen corn kernels, rather than baby corns). The hot kickers in my dish were obviously the red curry paste and the curry powder. Once I realized that my pot of sauce was a caldron of fiery spice, I added an extra 2 1/2 tsp. brown sugar. I also added another 3 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (in fact, all my soy sauce was dark; I didn’t use any “light” stuff).

I’ve got to recommend this dish for lovers of spiciness. It’s a blast if you like to giggle as you sweat and chew.

Now let’s exhale, and talk about an incredibly moist and charmingly sweet dessert. Presented by The Daily Spud, the “Canada’s Cake” is described as a “boiled fruit cake,” which is undeservingly unflattering terminology. Rather, this is a brilliant, unfussy fruit cake. Boil any dried fruits you like into a syrup. I used a 1 lb. combination of dried dates, blueberries, and cherries. The recipe asks for “demerara” sugar, which is large-grained and pale golden: turbinado sugar is what I used. I used 1 2/3 cups water. Ground cloves lend their distinct scent to the fruit syrup. I cooled my fruit syrup for 2 hours.

Bicarbonate of soda” is baking soda. I dissolved it in hot water, as advised, and added it and 2 cups flour to my fruit syrup. My batter was cement-thick and dark brown (the color would be determined by what dried fruits you use). I scraped the batter into a spring-form pan and baked at 319 degrees F for 1 hour 45 minutes. This cake was so great and such an effortless triumph. Good at tea time, I’m sure, and also great with a cup of coffee. What’s more, it lasted for days, remaining freshly moist. Do try this one, and tell me what fruits you choose.

PRICES
Shiitake Mushrooms (2 cups) = $3.64
Zucchini (2) = $2.47
White Satin Carrots (2) = .96¢
Lo Mein Noodles (8 oz.) = $1.91
Bean Sprouts (2 cups) = $1.59
Limes (2) = .20¢
Dried Deglet Noor Dates (.30 lb.) = .76¢
Dried Organic Blueberries (.31 lb.) = $4.50
Dried Cherries (.41 lb.) = $4.96
Turbinado Sugar (7 oz.) = .46¢

RECIPES: dare to make spicy noodles, garnished with all sorts of fun add-ons; a boiled fruit cake is incredibly low-fat and moist
PREP TIMES:
noodles and broth are quick, like any good Asian noodle dish should be; the fruit syrup for the cake needs hours to cool, then the cake needs more than an hour to bake. Enjoy the rewards of this cake for days thereafter
TASTES: spice, spice, spice, coconut milk, spice, spice, spice, noodles; dreamy dried fruits make a thick syrup that moistens a wonderful cake

Next time, I want to cook the “Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup,” from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food, along with the “Wild Rice Stuffing with Pine Nuts,” from the November 2010 issue of Bön Appetit. See my lovely meal when you come back to my site on Sunday, December 5.