Did you know that my state of North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes consumed in the United States? In fact, 60% of all sweet potatoes consumed in the United States are grown in the hot and moist soil of North Carolina. As someone who struggles to grow tomatoes in said ‘hot and moist soil’, I’m glad to know that something actually does thrive in it!
Sweet potatoes have come out of the shadows over the years…for the longest time it seemed they were relegated solely to the Thanksgiving table, often smothered under marshmallows and brown sugar. But now you’ll find variations of sweet potatoes in an assortment of dishes from chili to cupcakes to french fries.
This month (September) Fiesta de Camotes is highlighting the use of sweet potatoes in recipes developed by Latin & Hispanic bakeries and restaurants throughout the state. I was thrilled to be asked to go sample these dishes developed by two restaurants here in Wilmington, San Juan Cafe and Savorez for the Fiesta de Camotes (Celebrating Sweet Potatoes) and I’m equally thrilled to share the recipes with you.
“Fiesta de Camotes” is a promotion of the NC SweetPotato Commission and was funded through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
So, not only are you getting some great sweet potato recipes, but this is a mini TripAdvisor for the next time you make it the Wilmington, NC area and are looking for some good restaurants. I have to say, that for a town the size of Wilmington we are flush with really great locally-owned restaurants…our dining out options are vast.
San Juan Cafe, located on Wrightsville Avenue, has been serving Latin American food to the area for the past 7 years. The owners hail from Puerto Rico and St. John, USVI…so I guess they kinda know what they are talking about.
On a recent visit my son had the Cubano Sandwich, which I was not surprised to later find out was named ‘the Best Cubano Sandwich’ by our local paper. Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed their cornmeal-crusted chile relleno, stuffed with goat cheese and queso.
San Juan Cafe has also been named ‘Best Latin Restaurant in Southeastern NC’ by TripAdvisor users.
San Juan Cafe’s contribution to the Fiesta de Camotes is their Sweet Potato Mash…a combination of russet and sweet potatoes flavored with roasted garlic, cumin, and cilantro. I recently served it with baked chicken and it provided a nice and unusual variation to plain old mashed potatoes.
Here’s the link to the restaurant’s mashed sweet potato recipe, the only change that I made was to use fat-free milk and half of the butter.
Our next stop on this Fiesta de Camotes tour was the relatively new (5 months at this writing) Savorez restaurant in downtown Wilmington. Savorez, which is a variation of Spanish for ‘Flavors’, is the creation of local chef Sam Cahoon. The menu features meals inspired by traditional Latin cuisine while utilizing fresh and local ingredients of the area. Not only did we really enjoy the sweet potato guacamole, but my scallops entree cleverly named ‘Scallop in Your Business’ was absolutely sublime and Terry devoured his Carne Con Ancho.
So yes, you heard me right when I said ‘Sweet Potato Guacamole.’ Absolute truth time, my hubby really doesn’t like sweet potatoes…but he devoured this sweet potato guacamole. Of course, I’m sure it helped that goat cheese is a significant ingredient.
We made the Sweet Potato Guacamole at home and followed the recipe to the letter, with the exception of subbing plain goat cheese and diced jalapeno for the jalapeno goat cheese. One note…the referred to roasted cherry tomatoes are to be folded into the guacamole at the end of the preparation. Served with chips, this is a great variation on your traditional guacamole.
I hope you’ll check out these sweet potato recipes, as well as the 18 other Sweet Potato inspired dishes developed by Latin themed restaurants and bakeries throughout the state.
If you liked this Latin-inspired recipe, be sure to check out another Latin recipe, an easy arepa recipe!
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