Give the gift of Lowcountry this Christmas season

features@beaufortgazette.comDecember 10, 2013 

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I don't know what I enjoy most during the holidays, shopping for gifts or sharing my love of the Lowcountry with friends.

Sometimes I get to do both. This year a favorite of mine is Pat Branning's "Magnolias, Porches and Sweet Tea." This book is filled with Lowcountry recipes, along with local stories and artwork, including paintings by Nancy Ricker Rhett and photography by Branning's son, Andrew. The depictions of life in the Lowcountry make it worthy of sharing with others.

With the decorated Christmas tree in front of me and Diana Ross' carols playing, I sat with the book recently to plan an evening meal that would truly be one in which friends could sit and share what makes the season bright.

My decorating is still a work in progress, so this meal planning was just what I needed before finishing up and delving into my Christmas cards.

Iced Pineapple Mint Tea

Fruity but not too sweet. This drink is a favorite of Chef Darin's Lowcountry cooking classes at Savannah's 700 Kitchen at Mansion on Forsyth.

1 quart water

1 cup sugar

5 spearmint tea bags

1 quart cold water

1 quart pineapple juice

In a large 4 quart pan combine water and sugar. Place on stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir to help dissolve sugar and then turn off the heat and add the tea bags. Let it steep and infuse for at least 30 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing gently. Stir in cold water and pineapple juice. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Source: "Magnolias, Porches and Sweet Tea," by Pat Branning

Mushroom Polenta Stuffed Collard Greens

Inspired by Ambrose Farms on Wadmalaw Island

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms,chopped

1 shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup polenta, precooked according to directions on bag

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 fresh bunch collards, stems cut and blanched (6-8 leaves)

2-3 cups tomato or Bolognese sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in pan and add mushrooms, shallot, garlic and saute 5 minutes. Cook polenta; add Parmesan cheese and mushroom-shallot mixture along with the thyme. Cool polenta. Scoop onto collard leaves and roll up. Place in casserole and cover with sauce. Bake 35-45 minutes.

TOMATO SAUCE

1/4 olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

3 cloves minced garlic

2 teaspoons sea salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 (28 ounces) cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped

Heat oil in a pan and add onion, bay leaf, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes and add the tomato paste. Add tomato and stir until it begins to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Source: "Magnolias, Porches and Sweet Tea," by Pat Branning

Brown Rice Muffins

1 1/4 cups sifted rice flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup whole milk

2 large eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup cold cooked short grain brown rice

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Combine the milk, eggs, butter and rice. Quickly combine the two mixtures being careful not to over beat. Pour into buttered muffin tins. Bake in a 425 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Source: "Magnolias, Porches and Sweet Tea," by Pat Branning

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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