We just got home from two weeks in Costa Rica and I am seriously missing the amazing food we had there. It is probably the best food I've ever had on a trip. Typically, I get tired of eating out when I'm out of town and get excited to get back to "our" food. That didn't happen in Costa Rica.
My favorite thing about their food was how fresh it was. Many restaurants had a blackboard hanging somewhere in lieu of paper menus because their menu changed daily according to what was picked or caught that morning. SO COOL! Everything was sourced locally and grown hormone, pesticide, and antibiotic free. When something is just picked or brought in, the flavors are as fresh as can be. We had the ripest, sweetest, and juiciest pineapples and mangoes ever. Freshly caught fish was abundant and often served in a jalapeño- mango style ceviche with warm plantain chips (something Brian and I ate almost every day as a snack). Even their dark chocolate was made with cacao grown on a local farm with just a bit of cane sugar added. It was divine.
A typical Costa Rican meal was plate lunch style- a variety of foods in small portions. This was my favorite! I could try everything and not be super full. The plates usually had fresh fish (or a protein of choice), rice, shredded cabbage in a light sauce, veggies, tortillas, fried plantain chips, and a yummy bean dip/spread.
The delicious food in Costa Rica inspired me to change things up a bit at home and tryout some new meals. This Homemade Sweet Chips + Bean Dip is one of these new inspired recipes! The chips in Costa Rica would typically be plantains, which aren't abundant in Washington State. However, we did have a couple of meals where they made sweet potato chips instead, so that's what I used and it is a yummy stand-in.
Sweet potatoes have long been toted as a nutritional powerhouse, and for good reason. They are brimming with fiber, which nearly all of us could use more of. This supports digestion, helps with healthy bowels, and improves the diversity of your gut bacteria. It has a host of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, which contributes to healthy blood pleasure levels, Vitamin C, which does everything from healing wounds to supporting immunity, and choline and manganese, both powerful brain boosters. They are also a rich source of antioxidants, important for combatting cancerous diseases.
If sweet potatoes aren't really your thing, you can swap out a variety of root veggies here. Regular potatoes would work great (just be sure they are organic, washed well, and you leave the skin on to reap any health benefits), along with beets, Jerusalem artichoke, rutabaga, turnips, carrots, or daikon radishes.
This dish is perfect as an appetizer for your next get together, a fun side dish at any party, or alongside baked or grilled fish as a complete meal. (Or if you are anything like me, sometimes as a tasty lunch, even if it's not a perfectly balanced meal.)
Homemade Sweet Chips + Bean Dip Recipe
Makes about 3 cups of chips and 2 cups of dip
1 large sweet potato, washed and scrubbed
Avocado oil, lots (can use another high smoke point oil like coconut or safflower)
2 cans of black beans, rinsed
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
A healthy dose of salt and pepper
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, optional
Pico de gallo for topping, optional
Cotija cheese for topping, optional
Turn oven to 350 degrees.
Using a mandoline, slice the sweet potato into thin circles. (I used the thinnest setting on my mandoline.) If you don't have a mandoline, you can try using a vegetable peeler and make strips instead of rounds, or a knife.
In a medium/large sized pan, add enough avocado oil so there is about one and a half inches of oil. Set stove to medium.
Lay a paper towel onto of. a large plate and set aside.
When oven gets to 350 degrees, turn it off and keep it closed.
This will be done in batches. Using tongs, lay sweet potato pieces into the oil so that they each have a spot in the pan and let cook about 30-60 seconds. Flip and continue to cook equal amount of time or until they just start to brown. (Cooking times will vary according to thickness of chip.) Remove the pieces from the pan and lay on the paper towel. Continue until all pieces have been cooked, working in batches.
When finished, transfer sweet potatoes to an oven safe dish and place in the oven to keep warm until ready to eat.
Add the black beans, yogurt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and jalapeño (if using) to a blender or food processor. Add a 1/4 cup of water and blend until smooth. If it isn't blending well, or if it is too chunky, add a little more water and try again until you have reached desired consistency. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Don't be shy with the salt!
In a medium pot over low-medium heat, add the bean dip, cooking until it is warm. Pour into serving dish and top with pico and cheese, if using.
Serve bean dip with sweet potato chips for a fun side dish or appetizer! Make it a meal by adding a baked piece of fish.
Naturally gluten free and vegetarian.
Make it vegan by using a plain vegan yogurt and omitting the cheese.