How Do You Like Your Sweet Potatoes?
Many of you may only think about this locally grown vegetable around Thanksgiving when you will use it baked in pies and mashed beneath a layer of melted mini marshmallows; but its important to note that North Carolina’s sweet potato season runs from late summer on into December and for some farms, continues through the early winter, so sweet potatoes aren’t just for Thanksgiving any more!
Happily for us, North Carolina sweet potatoes are available at local farmers’ markets and in area grocery stores right through to the spring – nearly year round – so I say its time to leave the marshmallows for another day and discover several other ways to enjoy this local grown North Carolina treat!
Take a look at the photo above. If what you are used to when I say the words, “Sweet Potatoes” is what you see in my right hand (that’s the baked sweet potato on your left) then this article is for you…written to give you another way to look at serving all the many different varieties of North Carolina Sweet Potatoes and really enjoying the flavor they bring to the table!
North Carolina is #1 in Sweet Potatoes
While we are talking sweet potatoes, here’s a fun fact for you to brag about … Did you know that North Carolina is the number one sweet potato producing state in the country and home to more than half of the sweet potato harvest produced in the United States!?
What we see in grocery stores are only 4-5 different kinds of sweet potatoes from the classic orange Covington variety , to white O’Henry sweet potatoes and purple Japanese sweet potato variety called Murasaki. At local farmers’ markets you will see more of a local variety from the tiny Sweetie Pie potatoes to long and lanky purple Lee sweet potatoes
Actually, in North Carolina, if you count in a lot of the hybrid varieties discovered and then replanted by smaller local farmers here, there are hundreds of varieties of North Carolina sweet potatoes ready for you to enjoy, each with a slightly different texture and flavor.
Sweet Potatoes are good and good-for-you, too!
Health-wise you couldn’t think of a better vegetable to eat. While you might thing of them as a simple starch, the truth is that sweet potatoes are made of complex carbohydrates that are released at a steady pace for a constant source of energy after you eat them, so they are a go-to for athletes at any level – no sugar highs or lows to worry about. A medium sized sweet potato weighs in at about 100 calories and provides 35 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C! As you plan to bake, roast, grill or in the case of today’s recipe, toast – Keep that skin on – eating it as well as the tender flesh of the sweet potato adds tons of nutrients and vitamins.
The cooking and assembly process for today is super simple and thats one of the things I love about this recipe. Gone is the hour plus waiting time to bake a delicious local sweet potato – now your enjoyment is as fast and as close as your toaster. These Sweet Potato Toasties are a great idea for snacking, for lunch or a fun appetizer or side to soup or a salad. And the recipe is so easy even your kids can do it! Let them have fun at home or with friends as they make creative plans to top their own – with a little help from a grown-up who will need to be on hand to cut the slices prior to toasting. The thing I love the most about these toasties is that you don’t have to make a big batch – you can make a bunch, of course, or just one or two when ever you want!
Before I get to the specifics of the recipe here, let me share the video cooking segment I did the morning of Feb 8, 2018 on WCNC’s Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson…
Toasting Sweet Potatoes is as simple as 1-2-3
As I love to eat local all the way around, the sweet potatoes I’ve featured in this segment came from several Charlotte area farmers’ markets. The big Covington varieties are potatoes I purchased from farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg at New Town Farms at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market and the Purple Lee variety and the white Sunshine sweet potatoes I bought from Sarah Jane and Jamie at A Way of Life Farm at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market. I also bought Purple Lee, Tennessee Reds and smaller Sweetie Pie Sweet Potatoes from Bluebird Farm at the regional market In Charlotte on Yorkmont Road . Each different variety has a different level of sweetness and a slightly different texture, but the all work well in the recipe for my Sweet Potato Toasties.
Sweet Potato Toasties shine with local Got To Be NC toppings
My choice of toppings is local as well and features Roots Hummus from Asheville, NC; Uno Alla Volta Cottage Cheese from Charlotte, NC; Coddle Creek nut butters from Mooresville, NC; Curley Tail Candied Bacon from Charlotte, NC and some spices and herbs to finish things off all from Charlotte’s Savoy Spice Shop.
Roots Hummus is a small company based in Asheville doing very big things. Not only do they have 10 different varieties of artisan made hummus, but they are a company that really cares about the people they employ. One of the missions of Roots Hummus is to pay each of their employees a living wage so that after work folks don’t have to go work a second or third job to make ends meet and instead can go home to spend time with their families. Roots Hummus is sold across the country and is available in and around Charlotte at Earthfare, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and Ingles. For more information visit Rootshummus.com
Uno Alla Volta Cheeses is a one man operation based out of Charlotte, NC. Cheese Monger Zack Gadberry left the restaurant business to follow his passion and lucky for us, his passion is cheese. Zack makes his variety of soft fresh cheeses with cows milk from Wholesome County Creamery, goats milk from Nature’s Sunrise and their heavy cream is from Maple View Dairy in Hamptonville, NC. Lots of restaurants use the line of Uno Alla Volta products and its available for sale at cheese shops and smaller markets like Orrmans Cheese Shop, The Loyalist and both locations of Pasta & Provisions. You’ll also find Zack on most Saturday mornings at the Matthews Farmers’ Market and one of his family members at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market in Building 3. Zack makes a plain and a smoked mozzarella, several varieties of ricotta cheese, hand-churned butter and my favorite -cottage cheese. While I have used the cottage cheese in today’s recipe, any of the Uno Alla Volta cheeses would be a delicious foil to your next batch of Sweet Potato Toasties. Visit UAV Cheese on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/unoallvoltacheese/
Curley Tail Candied Bacon is also Charlotte based and the creation of Gene Pavone. Gene used to make the deliciously sweet and salty or spicy bacon to give as gifts to friends and the more people tried it the more they liked it and wanted more. The bacon is sealed and packaged in packs of three strips and comes in two different varieties – Brown Sugar and Habenero. You’ll be tempted to eat the flavorful candied strips as is right out of the pack, but save a couple at least to crumble over salads, spike in your next Bloody Mary or to crumble over a hummus, peanut or almond butter or cottage cheese slathered slice of Sweet Potato Toastie! Curley Tail Candied Bacon is available in Charlotte at Bruce Julian Clothiers and at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market at the All Natural Farms booth in Building No. 2 or from their website online at http://curleytail.com/
And finally here are the goods on one last topping for your Sweet Potato Toasties – peanut butter or almond butter! When I need a sweet treat a warm Sweet Potato Toastie topped with peanut or almond butter, sliced bananas and cocoa nibs ( or ground cocoa covered almonds or hazelnuts) really fills the bill. My favorite nut butters come from Coddle Creek Farms where Steve Young grinds them in small batches and lightly sweetens them with Coddle Creek Farms Honey under the Mama Young’s Gourmet, All-Natural Nut Butters label. These delicious butters come in peanut (plain and crunchy), almond butter and a chocolate peanut butter, too. Look for them and the Coddle Creek Farms honey as well as some of their fresh baked breads ( I understand from Steve they have a NC Sweet Potato bread we all simply must try) at their farm store in Mooresville, NC; and at local Cabarrus, Iredell and Mecklenburg County farmer’s markets, specialty stores and farm stands around the state. For more info visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/coddlecreekhoneyfarm/
Now that we have all the ingredients lined up – time to share the super simple technique for making your own batch of NC Sweet Potato Toasties – truly, its as easy as using your toaster! Wait for it….
North Carolina Sweet Potato Toasties
Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
The How-To for your Sweet Potato Toastie
Cut your favorite variety of NC sweet potato into half-inch slices. Place in the toaster just as you would a slice of bread. Put it in to toast on high and once it pops up, keep repeating the process until both sides of the potato have started to brown a bit.
OR you can bake the slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Once they are baked you may serve them hot or cold with your choice of delicious toppings. Here are 4 suggestions to get you started then let your creativity take hold and come up with your own exciting flavors – you are only limited by your imagination!
Savory Sweet Potatoes
Make a savory avocado topping with a sprinkling of sumac ( a citrusy flavored spice) or just some salt and pepper. Spice up Roots Hummus topped Sweet Potato Toasties with a chiffonade (aka shredded) baby arugula, Curley Tail Candied Bacon and sliced almonds or tomato. Or keep it light and fresh by finishing off an Uno Alla Volta Sweet Potato Toastie with thin slices of cucumber and a bit of fresh mint.
For great hot appetizer or snack: Top your Sweet Potato Toastie with sundried tomatoes and a bit of black or green olive tapenade, some fresh basil and a slice of Uno Alla Volta mozzarella cheese for a fun take on bruschetta; or for a delicious Mexican toast – top each slice with Roots Black Bean Hummus and a sprinkling of minced cilantro and some Uno Alla Volta feta cheese.
Thanks so much to my blog partners who help make it possible to bring more posts like this your way. My blog post sponsors are all brands I believe in and I am happy to share their story. Today this HeidiBillottoFood.com post is brought to you by my friends at the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, Inc.
The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission Inc. is a nonprofit corporation made up of over 400 sweet potato growers along with the packers, processors and business associates that support them.
The sole purpose of the commission is to increase sweet potato consumption through education, promotional activities, research and honorable horticultural practices among its producers. Thanks to the six sweet potato farmers that chartered the commission in 1961, the commission has supported its growers and maintained North Carolina as the No. 1 sweet potato producing state in the United States since 1971. For more information about the NC SweetPotato Commission, growing or promotions please visit www.ncsweetpotatoes.com