Candle Cafe's Paradise Casserole
I can't, by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, claim to be an expert on New York City restaurants. For one thing, I don't have very much money, which eating out requires. For another, I don't always have a lot of energy, which constantly searching out new places also requires. But I have my favorites. There's our local neighborhood French bistro which is basically the best restaurant ever in the world. I could eat there multiple times a week, and sometimes I do. Oh, and our local taqueria, with the best guacamole and some seriously good horchata. And then, there's the Candle Cafe, that famous vegetarian restaurant for which I have to wait for willing friends, since R's reply to most vegetarian food is "it would be better with meat" (meat schmeat, I say). And this, their Paradise Casserole, is one of the best things on the menu.
Layers of cinnamoned sweet potato, black beans stewed with onions and cumin, and a crust-like spread of millet. Millet, by the way, is a pain to find. Don't bother with Gristedes, or Gourmet Garage. Or any other grocery story for which I don't have to get on the subway. But they have it at Whole Foods. As usual. And one oh-so-precious thing I learned from the Paradise Casserole is this: sweet white miso makes for the most spectacular sweet potato whip. I could lick the sweet potato layer right off of the beans. Don't test me.
I should warn you that when you're boiling your black beans (which you remembered to soak overnight the night before) be sure that you cook them All The Way Through. Not part of the way through, not to al dente (which is not meant for beans) but All The Way. Check, and when you notice a little resistance, don't figure it will be fine. Just return them to the water for an extra few minutes. I mean really, self, you should know better by now.
From the Candle Cafe Cookbook
4 sweet potatoes (I used yams, that's what I could find)
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
1 teaspoon Umeboshi vinegar (if you can't find umeboshi, you can substitute with red wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup black beans, soaked overnight with a 1" piece of Kombu, drained (I used the Kombu because, strangely, I had some sitting around. But I wouldn't necessarily make a special trip for it)
2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 cups of millet
Oil for the casserole pan
Oven preheated to 350F
Bake the sweet potatoes for one hour until a fork goes in easily. Remove to a bowl and let cool a bit, until you can work them out of their skins. Place the pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add the miso, vinegar and cinnamon and continue mashing, then give it a good stir to be sure it's all combined.
While the sweet potatoes are baking, put the beans in a large stock pot and cover with water by 2". Add the garlic, onion, cumin, crushed red pepper and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes, until tender. Drain, and set aside.
In the meantime, put the millet in a large pot with 4 cups of well salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low for 40-45 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Set aside.
Oil a large casserole dish (I actually used a 10" springform pan) and spread the millet over the bottom. Spread the black beans over that, and then spread the layer of sweet potatoes.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool a bit before serving. Serve slices of the casserole over steamed kale, as they do at Candle Cafe.