Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe: Pickled Celeriac

Ever since I first had celery root pickles at the restaurant Taberna de Haro, celeriac has become my new favorite pickle! I have made many batches of pickled celeriac since, as a cook at Taberna de Haro last year and at home.

-Pickled celery root and beets-
Pickling celeriac with beets gives it a nice purple color

Here I want to share with you my recipe to make celeriac refrigerator pickles, which was published in my town newspaper, the Lexington Minuteman, for the Lexington Farmers' Market. Celery root is in season right now, so it is the perfect time to make these pickles. There are a few more weeks left for the Lexington Farmers' Market for this season, or find celery root at another local farmers market near you.

Celery root

Celeriac to appear at the market
By Annabelle Ho
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013

Celeriac, also known as celery root, was one of my favorite vegetables to weed at the farm last summer, no joke. Celery root contains plenty of fiber, as well as vitamin B6, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorous, and more. Although celeriac may be unfamiliar, there are many ways to cook this versatile vegetable.  The leaves and stems of celeriac can be used just like celery.  Celeriac can be eaten raw and grated into salads, or fermented.  Celery root can also be cooked, such as in soup or roasted with other root vegetables. A celeriac puree is a great alternative to mashed potatoes. However, one of my favorite ways to prepare celeriac is to make celery root pickles. Celeriac is delicious pickled, although this pickling recipe can be used with other vegetables as well. Look for celeriac at the Lexington Farmers' Market to arrive fresh from the farms in a week or so. 

Celeriac Refrigerator Pickles

1 medium celeriac (about 1 ¼ pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
½ teaspoon whole allspice berries
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves

  1. Cut off the bottom and top of the celeriac. Peel the celery root and cut into thick matchsticks.
  2. Add all of the ingredients except for the celeriac in a pot. Bring the pickling brine to a boil.
  3. Add the celeriac and simmer it briefly for about 1 minute, according to taste. Do not simmer the celery root for too long, as it should still have some crunch.
  4. Take the pot off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour the vegetables and brine into glass jars. Cover the jars and refrigerate them.
  6. After 24 hours, eat and enjoy! The pickles can last for up to a few months in the fridge. 

  • Pickle celeriac with purple beets to give it a purple color.
  • Use this pickling brine recipe with other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, or turnips. Depending on which vegetables you use, how thin the vegetables are cut, and how crunchy you like your pickles, step 3 may be optional, and the raw vegetables can be added to the brine without being simmered.
  • Switch up the spices in the mix. For example, dill, cinnamon, and star anise are all good candidates.

Annabelle Ho is a Lexington resident with a Bachelor of Science in nutritional science from Boston University. She maintains a blog at, and is a work share volunteer at Waltham Fields Community Farm. Annabelle writes for the Lexington Farmers' Market, and has been a volunteer at the market for several years. The Lexington Farmers' Market is located at the corners of Massachusetts Avenue and Fletcher in the center of Lexington, and is open rain or shine every Tuesday through October.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed Collard Greens

This summer I wrote an article on stuffed collards greens for the Lexington Farmers' Market for the town newspaper, the Lexington Minuteman, and I wanted to share it with you:

Nutritionist suggests way to stuff collard greens
By Annabelle Ho
Published July 11, 2013

Stuffed collard greens are a beautiful and delicious way to eat these veggies! Collard greens are light and nutrient-rich, providing fiber, vitamins K, A, and C, calcium, and more.  Quinoa also packs a nutritional punch. It offers all nine essential amino acids, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), phosphorous, and other nutrients. Technically a seed, and not a grain, quinoa is also gluten-free. Here is a simple recipe for quinoa stuffed collard greens.

Stuffed collard greens is a healthy recipe for summer dining

Stuffed collard greens

Makes 4 servings
Time: 1 hour


1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced radishes
1 cup diced summer squash
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 large collard leaves

  1. Rinse the quinoa well in a strainer and drain, to remove the bitter residue. Add the quinoa, water, and salt in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer, then simmer the quinoa for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, warm the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Next, add the garlic, carrots, radishes, summer squash, oregano, mint, and black pepper. Cover the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the lemon juice and cooked quinoa, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Remove the large part of the main stem from each collard leaf. Boil or steam the leaves until they are soft, about 1 minute. Lay the leaves flat on a plate to cool. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, lay a leaf flat, vein side up, with the leaf tip away from you. If the leaf has a space in the middle where the stem was cut away, overlap the two sides of the leaf slightly. Put about ½ cup of the quinoa filling in the bottom center of the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, and then roll it up carefully and tightly to form a package. Place in a lightly oiled 8-inch square baking pan, seam side down. Repeat with the rest of the collard greens.
  4. Cover and bake the stuffed greens in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or until hot.
Substitute the quinoa, vegetables, or herbs in this recipe for other ingredients that are local and in season.

The recipe was adapted from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health."

Many of these ingredients can be purchased from vendors at the Lexington Farmers' Market. Cook and enjoy.

Annabelle Ho is a Lexington resident with a Bachelor of Science in nutritional science from Boston University. She maintains a blog at, and is a work-share volunteer at Waltham Fields Community Farm.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cooking at Taberna de Haro

The Spanish wine and tapas restaurant, Taberna de Haro, has changed quite a bit since I first wrote about it three years ago.

Last year, we expanded the restaurant to include a full bar, offering bar tapas and mixed drinks.

The bar
(Photo courtesy of Taberna de Haro)

We also increased our patio seating and revamped our menu. And of course, we have our ever expanding wine list, currently with over 320 Spanish wines.

The patio
(Photo courtesy of Taberna de Haro)

In addition to being a server these past few years, I took on the position as a cook last year. It was a great experience to work in the restaurant in the front and the back of the house. I also enjoyed learning more about cooking and about how many of the dishes that we offer are made.

Making salad for the staff meal
(Photo courtesy of Celeste Radosevich)

My duties included preparing various menu items and weekly specials. I became an expert at cooking the classic Spanish omelette, the Tortilla Española (find a recipe here). Fun items that I also helped to make included pâté and our house-made Spanish blood sausage, morcilla.

House-Made Morcilla: Spanish blood sausage with sliced apple

On Tuesday nights, I was in charge of the cold and brick oven station. This included serving up our suckling pig special, cochinillo asado, cooked in the brick oven and served on Tuesday nights from October - May.

Whole roasted suckling pig
(Photo courtesy of Taberna de Haro)

Heating up the roasted suckling pig for the family meal
(Photo courtesy of Celeste Radosevich)

Other special dishes that I helped to prepare include:

Roasted duck breast over blood orange and frisée greens

Quail egg and house-made lamb bacon on tomato toast

Rabbit escabeche salad with pomegranate seeds and onion

Taberna de Haro is located at 999 Beacon St., Brookline, MA 02446. We offer authentic Spanish cuisine, including tapas, entrees, wines, and cocktails. Enjoy the rest of the patio season while it is still warm out, and look out for our roasted suckling pig, winter, and brick oven dishes returning in October! Visit the website and sign up for the newsletter for more information and to stay up to date about events.

Although I will not be returning as a cook in the fall, I will still be serving at Taberna de Haro. Come by and say hello! I will also be continuing my position as a CSA Distribution Coordinator at Waltham Fields Community Farm until the season ends in the end of October. Finally, I am looking forward to beginning a Master of Science in Food and Nutrition Program at Framingham State University this fall!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wild Medicine Exhibit at The New York Botanical Garden

In my last trip to New York, I visited The New York Botanical Garden. I especially enjoyed the Wild Medicine Exhibit, which features healing plants from around the world and the Italian Renaissance Garden.

Here are just a few of the plants in the Wild Medicine Exhibit:

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Although the foxglove plant is poisonous, it also contains chemicals, digoxin and digitoxin, that are used to treat heart disease. In the 1700s, foxglove was used as a medicinal plant in Ireland by local healers, to treat headaches, paralysis, boils, edema, and more. Despite its medicinal uses, foxglove in Ireland was also known as "dead man's thimbles," to warn against its toxicity. Today, chemicals derived from foxglove are active ingredients in prescription drugs approved to treat congenital heart defects and congestive heart failure (1).* 

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)

German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge is credited with having found the chemical atropine in belladonna. In 1809, Runge accidentally got a drop of belladonna extract in his eye, causing his eye to dilate. In 1833, Runge isolated atropine, belladonna's primary active chemical. Another highly poisonous plant, belladonna has been used for centuries. During the Italian Renaissance, women used the juice from the berries to dilate their eyes. This was regarded as elegant, however it could also eventually cause blindness. Today, doctors use atropine (with careful dosage to avoid the risk of poisoning), to dilate pupils, relax muscles, and raise heart rate (1).*

Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea)

Spilanthes is also known as the "toothache plant," because the red-and-yellow flowers release an anesthetic that decreases oral pain and encourages salivation when they are chewed. Spilanthes flowers can be dried and chewed to relieve toothaches, inflammation of the gums, and cold sores. The plant contains the chemical spilanthol, which has numbing and antibacterial properties (1).*

Besides the Wild Medicine Exhibit, there was much more to explore in The New York Botanical Garden. I also saw:

Miniature alpine gardens (trough gardens)

Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys)
A native plant of the Philippines

Living stones (Lithops)

Living stones grow in the deserts of Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. These plants camouflage  themselves to look like the stones nearby, to protect themselves from animals (1).

Tropical blueberries (Anthopterus wardii)

Tropical blueberries grow in the American tropics, and are relatives of the edible blueberries that you normally see in grocery stores, which are native to North America. Some tropical blueberries are edible, while others are poisonous. The higher in elevation the plant is, typically the more toxic its berries are. The antioxidant content of tropical berries can be 11 times as high as that of edible North American blueberries. While tropical blueberries have not been used medicinally in the past, scientists are researching if these berries can be used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by reducing inflammation (1).* 

There is a lot to see in The New York Botanical Garden, and I would definitely come again. If you are interested in the Wild Medicine Exhibit, stop by The New York Botanical Garden before September 8! The garden is open year-round, Tuesdays-Sundays, and occasionally on Mondays. For more information, check out The New York Botanical Garden website.

1. Wild Medicine Exhibit at The New York Botanical Garden

*Please note that this information is for educational purposes only, and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please see your physician for further care.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shiki: Japanese Restaurant

Hidden on Babcock Street in Coolidge Corner in Brookline is one of my favorite restaurants to dine at in the Boston area: the Japanese restaurant, Shiki.

I have been going to Shiki since it opened in 2007, and I have returned many times since. Shiki offers authentic Japanese cuisine (confirmed by my Japanese friends, and you will often find Japanese people dining in the restaurant). Shiki is a great place to go if you love seafood like I do. However, there are many non-seafood options if seafood is not your thing! Check out their menu.

I typically order the Take Kaiseki lunch set.

Take (Bamboo) Kaiseki Lunch Set
"A combination of sashimi, broiled fish, tempura, and cooked vegetables. Served with miso soup, salad, and rice (white or the day's mixed rice)."

Although if I am particularly hungry, I sometimes order the Matsu Kaiseki lunch set instead. Mmmmm.

Matsu (Pine) Kaiseki Lunch Set
"Combination of mini appetizers, sashimi, oshizushi (pressed sushi), mini chawanmushi (egg custard), broiled fish, and tempura. Served with salad and a small udon noodle soup."

Shiki is open for lunch and dinner, six days a week (it is closed in-between meals, and closed on Mondays). For lunch, you can choose from a variety of lunch sets and sushi a la carte. Small plates are offered for dinner a la carte. I have been to Shiki for both lunch and dinner, although I typically go for lunch, because the prices are so reasonable. Whenever you go and whatever you order, though, is sure to be beautiful and delicious.

Hokkai Donburi Lunch Set
 "Assortment of seafood - crab meat, salmon roe, scallop, and sea urchin [served over rice]. Served with miso soup and salad."

Shiki is located at 9 Babcock Street, Brookline, MA 02446. T: (617) 738-0200. Go to the website to take a look at their hours, their menu, and for more information. Visit today! You won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Natural Cold and Flu Prevention and Remedies

It has been a pretty bad cold and flu season this winter, but luckily I was prepared with natural prevention methods and remedies! However, before we get started, what is the difference between the cold and the flu?

The cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because the two illnesses share many symptoms, it can be difficult to determine the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Here are some tips on how to differentiate between the two. Generally, the flu is more severe than the common cold, and a temperature of over 101 degrees F may indicate the flu rather than a cold. A runny or stuffy nose is common with a cold, and colds usually do not result in serious health problems, such as bacterial infections or hospitalizations.

Here are a few possible ways to prevent or treat the cold or flu:

1. Fresh, Raw Garlic

A very affordable and easily accessible option! Raw garlic is a "potent has immune-stimulating properties as well as antibacterial and antiviral effects." The major compound in garlic that provides health benefits is allicin. However, allicin is only formed when the garlic is crushed or finely chopped, and exposed to the air for a few minutes. Take raw garlic (a few cloves a day) at the first onset of symptoms. To make the raw garlic more palatable, crush it, chop it finely, and add it to your food. Read more about allicin and raw garlic benefits from Dr. Weil.

Garlic (photo source)

2. Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are a great way to boost one's overall immunity and to fight disease, with different mushrooms offering different health benefits. Although there still is a lot that we need to learn about them, "Preliminary studies on mushrooms have revealed novel antibiotics, anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agents, immunomodulators, and a slew of active constituents."

For example, maitake mushrooms have "anticancer, antiviral, and immune-system enhancing effects and may also help control both high blood pressure and blood sugare levels." In addition, reishi can "improve immune function and inhibit the growth of some malignant tumors. It also shows significant anti-inflammatory effects, reduces allergic responsiveness, and protects the liver."

Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor

To learn more about medicinal mushrooms, read this introductory article by Paul Stamets, Mycologist, an interview with Paul Stamets, and his website for more information about medicinal mushrooms and mushroom products. In addition, The Boston School of Herbal Studies routinely offers Medicinal Mushroom Classes taught by Melanie Rose. I attended their Medicinal Mushroom Class in October, and learned a lot! One recommended source Melanie recommended to purchase mushroom products from was Mushroom Harvest based in Athens, Ohio, with the 14 Mushroom Powder Blend a favorite of hers. Finally, if you live in the Boston area, look into the Boston Mycological Club, which "was organized in 1895 to study mushrooms and other fungi, to collect and spread information concerning them, and to encourage interest with exhibitions, lectures, and publications."

3. Astragalus 

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) "has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years." Astragalus has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, it "stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds." The root of the plant is used medicinally, and it may be found in Chinese food stores, some health food stores, and also online, such as at Mountain Rose Herbs. Astragalus root can be simmered in teas and soups, and can also be found in liquid, capsule, and tablet form. Read more about astragalus root from Dr. Weil, The University of Maryland Medical Center, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Slices of dried astragalus root 
4. Essential Oils for Respiratory Issues

At the Farm to Pharmacy Intensive, David Crow of Floracopeia reiterated numerous times about the benefits of conifer and eucalyptus essential oils to help to prevent and to treat respiratory ailments. They can be taken by steam inhalations, in a diffuser, and more. (Please note that it is not safe to take essential oils internally!) For more information about essential oils in general, read about my experiences taking an Aromatherapy Course and the Farm to Pharmacy Intensive.

Heavenly Scent Diffuser/Nebulizer

5. Umcka® 

Umcka® ColdCare is a homeopathic remedy made with Pelargonium sidoides extract (EPs 7630) 1X, "a medicinal plant unique to South Africa. In clinical studies, EPs 7630 shortens the duration and reduces severity of throat, nasal and bronchial irritations. It also naturally releives congestion, cough, headache, and hoarseness." Umcka® Cold Care is available in liquid form, chewable tablets, and powder form for adults and children. In addition, Umcka® offers a Cold and Flu line, made with Pelargonium sidoides extract (EPs 7630) 1X and an Alpha® CF blend. Visit the Umcka® website for more information and check out their FAQ page.

6. Elderberry Syrup

While currently there is only preliminary research demonstrating potential benefits of elderberries for the cold and flu, it has been used historically in traditional European medicine for the cold and flu. I thought that making elderberry syrup would be something fun to try, so I made my first batch in October. It is tasty, too!

To make the elderberry syrup, I followed the recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs, with one small difference. I learned from the Farm to Pharmacy Intensive that simmering elderberries (or any vegetable or fruit) significantly reduces vitamin C content. Therefore, instead of simmering the elderberries, I:
  • Boiled 3 cups of water
  • Poured the boiled water over 1/2 cup dried elderberries in a bowl
  • Covered the bowl well and let the infusion steep overnight
The next day:
  • I mashed the elderberries with a potato masher to release the juices
  • Strained out the liquid using cheesecloth and a colander 
  • Stirred in 1 cup of honey to the liquid
  • Put the elderberry syrup in jars to refrigerate, and voilà! Done. 
The elderberry syrup lasts 2-3 months in the fridge, and as for dosage, I just followed the recommendation from Mountain Rose Herbs' recipe: "Take a tablespoon daily to ward off illness and a teaspoon every 2-3 hours while sick."

Elderberry syrup, batch one

I have taken elderberry syrup most days since I first made it in October, and surprisingly I did not get sick when my family and I flew to Las Vegas for my cousin's wedding in early December (I have a bad habit of getting sick when I travel). I was sick with a cold for one week in late December, when my elderberry syrup had already spoiled and I had not made a new batch yet (the syrup had lasted two months). I made a new elderberry syrup (cut down to 1/3 of the batch) the day after I realized I was starting to get sick. Luckily I did not experience any physical symptoms at all, and I only felt "fogginess" in my head (I was taking the 14 Mushroom Powder Blend, conifer essential oils in the diffuser, and Umcka® at the same time though, so all may have contributed to help to reduce the severity of my cold, and prevented me from getting sick most of the winter).

If you have any other suggestions for natural cold and flu preventative tips and treatments, please share!