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Beach Plum's Profile

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Culinary Lavender

I live in Wakefield.

Culinary Lavender

Thank you all. I, too, have lavender growing in my garden. But I grow the Hidcote variety because it has the deepest purple buds. However, according to what I've read, the only lavender you would use for culinary purposes are the English lavender and Provence varieties. They have lower camphor and resin and therefore don't taste like perfume. I would imagine that any lavender labeled as "culinary" would be one of those varieties.

I do appreciate all your suggestions! Thank you!

Culinary Lavender

Does anyone know where I can find some culinary lavender? I want to make the sweet lavender scones from Bon Appetit.

Is Porto Bello in Wakefield closed?

I tried going to dinner last week during their business hours but it was locked and the sign was down - although the string lights around the windows were on. There was a piece of paper on the window with a phone number to call for take out. I called the number just to get more information, but nobody answered. Does anyone know what the story is? I would hate to lose this gem!

Porto Bello Restaurant
979 Main St Ste 1, Wakefield, MA 01880

Green Papayas

Hmmm... So should I buy a red papaya that feels hard and unripe, or should I look for a label that says "green papaya"?

Green Papayas

I have a recipe for green papaya salad. I can only find red papayas in the markets. Are green papayas a different variety or just unripe? Are they seasonal? Where can I buy them?

Maine Shrimp

I just wanted to pass along that C Mart on Washington Street has beautiful, fresh-looking Maine shrimp with heads on for $1.99/lb. I can't wait for supper!

Haymarket and Fish Advice

I used to work in the Haymarket area and would shop there every Friday. I would SOMETIMES buy fish, but I established strict guidelines about when to buy and when not to buy.

First, if it's over 60 degrees outside, don't buy. If there are any flies near the fish, don't buy. If the fish doesn't look fresh and moist, don't buy. If the sellers are acting too gruff, don't buy.

That said, I have bought some excellent fish both at the outside stall near the T station and downstairs at the Middle Eastern market. A couple of times I have wandered into the other downstairs fish shop and felt intimidated because there were no signs and nobody to ask about prices, so I gave up on them.

At the outdoor stall I have bought excellent haddock and salmon, and they introduced me to Maine shrimp which were incredibly fresh and delicious. I've been meaning to go back for more - if they still have them. They also have many other kinds of fish, many of which I don't recognize. I sometimes feel intimidated to ask what they are because the people can be gruff, although sometimes they're helpful. (Do you get the sense that I'm somewhat shy and timid? Not great attributes when you shop at Haymarket:) But the prices are very reasonable. When fresh fish from the supermarket is not in my budget, I can often find something affordable there.

The Middle Eastern market seems a little more legit, although they don't have signs with prices or the type of fish either. Their prices are higher than the outdoor stall, but still reasonable. I'm more willing to buy fish from them in warm weather as long as there are no flies in the shop. A couple of times when I've been there there has been a language barrier and I had to communicate by sign language. Other times the fishmonger has spoken some English.

So all in all, do not disregard Haymarket for fresh fish, but caveat emptor.

Cooking on a wood-burning stove

I'm buying a house that has a wood-burning stove - not a cooking stove, and I'm wondering if anybody has tried cooking on one and can offer any tips.

Oct 17, 2007
Beach Plum in Home Cooking

Fasika - Strange...

Last Wednesday was my boyfriend's birthday and he decided he'd like to try Ethiopian food. I had read about Fasika on this board and thought it would fit the bill. I checked their web site and saw that they open at 5 p.m., which worked for me because I get out of work downtown at 5. Remember, last Wednesday was the day it was slushing out. Very unpleasant.

We got to the restaurant at 5:20 and there were two people sitting at the bar talking to the bartender. They were all very friendly, but the bartender told us they were a little slow in the kitchen that night, so could we come back in half an hour. He said the cook was still chopping food. Neither my boyfriend nor I drink, so we headed back out into the cold, wet muck. We came back half an hour later and the bartender said they still weren't ready yet, but he seated us at a table and brought us soft drinks on the house for while we waited. The only other people in the place were the two people at the bar.

So we waited. And waited. The big screen TVs (one in the bar, and one in the restaurant) were on loud, and the ambience was non-existent. I suppose if we were sitting at the bar, we wouldn't have felt so out of place, but we stay away from bars. From where I was sitting, I could see into the kitchen. The Ethiopian woman who was in there didn't seem to be cooking or chopping any food at all. We couldn't hear any cooking noises, and I saw her picking up pots and pans and shrugging her shoulders. It looked like she was either looking for something or like she had no idea what she was doing in the kitchen. After half an hour, she came out to us and told us that she was sorry we had to wait, but that the waitress was very late. We expected her to take our orders herself, but she just turned and walked back into the kitchen. Then she made a phone call and spoke very animatedly to the other person, all the while, picking up pots and shrugging her shoulders.

We gave her 10 minutes during which time nothing changed. We thanked the bartender for the drinks, and left. It was 6:30.

What was that all about?!!! I understand that unforeseen circumstances can throw everything off, but why didn't they just tell us up front, instead of having us wait for nothing? I wonder how long it would have taken them to let us know what was going on. I don't know if we'll ever go back.

Pearl Sugar

Is pearl sugar the same as sanding sugar?

Baking Jim Lahey's bread on a camping trip

I've never tried making bread on a camping trip, but I think that if you can park your car in a sunny spot, you should be able to raise the dough in the car (though not in direct sunlight). Depending on the season and the outside temperature, you might have to leave the windows open a little so the car doesn't get too hot.

Feb 12, 2007
Beach Plum in Home Cooking

Wheatberries..Why are they always featured in salads but not in hot side dishes?

In baking, hard winter wheat is used for bread because it has a high gluten content. Soft spring wheat has less gluten and is used for making more delicate foods where gluten is not desired, for instance pie crust or cookies.

I have both an electric grinder and a Vitamix that I use to grind my own whole wheat flour as needed. I'm convinced it makes the food taste much fresher than using store-bought flour. I also like to throw a handful of wheat berries (either kind) into the pot when I'm making brown rice. I like the chewy texture it adds. Just cook the wheat for about 15 minutes before you add the rice, as it takes a little longer to cook.

Jan 18, 2007
Beach Plum in Home Cooking

Chocolate Cups

There's a chocolate shop in my area (north of Boston) that sells them, so you might look in a candy shop. And I think I saw them in the Vermont Country Store catalog.

Nov 15, 2006
Beach Plum in Home Cooking

Thanksgiving Dinner ideas

Intuitive Eggplant, are you willing to share the recipe for carmelized onion and cheddar dip? That sounds great.

Nov 15, 2006
Beach Plum in Home Cooking


Yes, I'd love to have the recipe. Thank you for posting it. I love to bake, but baklava always seemed very complicated and involved.

And thanks for the bakery suggestions. I'll try them out too:)

Boston Grocery Stores

Then there's always Haymarket on Fridays and Saturdays. That's a topic in itself, but you can't beat the prices. If you do a search on this board or even on Google, you'll find all kinds of information on shopping at Haymarket.


Is there anywhere near downtown Boston where I can buy really good baklava?

what do you eat/or prepare straight from the can, jar, package, etc.. that is perfect just as it is as a meal or snack? ?

Mandarin oranges.

Aug 28, 2006
Beach Plum in General Topics

Puff pastry question

Even if you prick the bottom layer of puff pastry, sometimes it will still puff up - but that's not a problem. After it is baked and cooled, gently press the bottom part down with your fingers. It will still have separate layers, but they'll be flat enough for you to put in your filling. That's what we did at the bakery where I worked.

Aug 28, 2006
Beach Plum in Home Cooking