the taste space

Candle Cafe’s Paradise Casserole with Black Beans, Millet and Cinnamon-Miso Sweet Potato Mash

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on November 2, 2011

The first time I cooked millet, it became clumpy as leftovers. This time, I followed Ashley’s advice for fluffy millet perfection, and fluffy millet was delivered! Except for this casserole, I wanted it to be slightly clumpy so that it would stick together. Ah well… at least I know how to make fluffy millet. Can I learn to make clumpy millet again? ;)

I finally broke out this casserole for Thanksgiving with Rob’s family. A multi-layered casserole: nutty millet at the bottom, with a middle layer of cumin-spiced black beans and onions, topped with a sweet potato mash flavoured with cinnamon and miso. Simple, familiar and homey. A complete meal. Perfect for a dish to share at Thanksgiving.

When Rob and I went to NYC last year, we ate at Candle Cafe. I had the Paradise Casserole and when I saw it was in their cookbook and also posted here, I knew I would be able to recreate the dish back home. This is what it looked like at the restaurant:

Their recipe is misleading, so I will redirect you. You will notice that my casserole is a bit bottom-heavy. As written, 1.5 cups of dry millet is WAY TOO MUCH. I spread it out over an 7×7, a 9×9 and 2 smaller ramekins. As such, the rest of my toppings were too thin. I kept on wanting more of the sweet, sweet sweet potato mash. The miso and cinnamon really pumped up its flavour. Before I added the black beans, I thought they were a bit bland with only cumin, so I added a teaspoon of garam masala.

For the beans, I wondered if a portion of the black beans should be mashed. This way if my layer of black beans was thicker, I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling all over the place. Looking back at the resto version, it looks like they have a trick for keeping that layer together as well.

And the millet… well, the trick to fluffy millet is to cook it with less water. I also toasted it in a bit of olive oil but the trick is the 1:2 millet:water ratio.  The millet was super fluffy. So fluffy that it would not stick together and made for a messy casserole. The two servings that I put in the ramekins turned out really well, though. My photos are simply subpar in the presentation aspect, though, but it tasted good.  Hopefully with my tips, you can make this even better than me. :)


This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, Healing Foods featuring vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to Cathy’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge.

Paradise Casserole

4 sweet potatoes (I used 2lb, but I would use more next time)
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3-4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup of millet, rinsed well (I used 1.5 cups and it was WAY TOO MUCH)
1.5 cups vegetable broth (I used a 1:2 ratio but to get better millet stickiness, a 1:3 ratio or greater would be better)
Oil for the casserole pan

1. Oven preheated to 350F

2. 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.

3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil, add the onion and saute until soft, around 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add the cumin, garam masala, crushed red pepper and salt. Stir in the cooked black beans and cook until heated through. Set aside.

4. In the meantime, add 1 tsp of olive oil to medium saucepan. Add the rinsed millet and toast until fragrant, around 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. The water should all be absorbed. Set aside.

5. Lightly oil a large casserole dish (I would recommend something on the smaller side, like 9×9) and spread the millet over the bottom. Spread the black beans over that, and then spread the layer of sweet potatoes. The casserole can be wrapped and refrigerated until needed.

6. When ready to serve, bake for 45 minutes at 350F. Remove and let cool a bit before serving. Serve slices of the casserole over steamed kale, as they do at Candle Cafe.

Serves 6-8.

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23 Responses

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  1. Dawn said, on November 2, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    I think your photos are gorgeous! I can/t wait to try this one. I love black beans and sweet potato together. When I try it I’ll use less millet and more sweet potato!
    Hugs!
    Dawn

  2. Caitlin said, on November 2, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    i’ve always wanted to make this recipe, and there you go, beating me to the punch!

    even if it’s bottom heavy, it is still lovely. i appreciate that rustic-like quality that your pictures have.

    i agree that i would feel misled and a little aggravated that i didn’t get enough creamy sweet potato in each bite. thanks for the heads up about it. when i make it, i’ll probably double the sweet potatoes and quarter the millet.

  3. Ashley said, on November 2, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    I’m glad you got the fluffy millet!! Funny that you wanted it clumpy for this recipe though. hehe I’m not sure how to achieve that….possibly cooking it a tad longer? After it sits in the fridge for a day it usual is clumpy too. Either way, your casserole looks completely amazing!!!

  4. [...] free to substitute with quinoa or even brown rice) 3 cups water (update: use 2 cups water for more fluffy millet) 1 tbsp miso, thinned with water to make it spreadable 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds 1 tbsp coconut oil 1 [...]

  5. Joanne said, on November 2, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I’ve been meaning to try this recipe at Candle Cafe but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Thanks for these tips! Maybe i”ll just whip up a few ramekins of these for my Thanksgiving! One larger one for a main course for me and smaller ones in case anyone else wants to try it.

  6. saffronstreaks said, on November 2, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    casserole looks so gorgeous and inviting, and this millet and beans combo is very new to me, sounds healthy too

  7. kitblue said, on November 2, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    Millet will be clumpy if you don’t toast it first (ask me how I know!)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on November 2, 2011 at 9:35 PM

      I do love a good story: please share! :)

      • kitblue said, on November 2, 2011 at 11:05 PM

        Hah!. I hadn’t cooked or eaten millet in a long time. I was eating mostly rice, quinoa and pasta. I realized that I needed more variety and remembered how much I liked millet. I decided that since I had some great fresh veg that I would have a stir fry with millet. I prepared the vegetables – onions, peppers, garlic, mushrooms and cauliflower – and sauteed them while I put millet on to boil. All is ready. I uncovered the millet to fluff and found a mass of … ??? porridge ???.
        I put some on a plate with the veg and ate it but I wasn’t what I intended. Then I searched the ‘net to see what I did wrong. Millet needs to be toasted to be fluffy and in separate grains, much like kasha which I also haven’t had for a long time.
        Do you use kasha? If so, how do you use it? If not, is there a reason?

      • janet @ the taste space said, on November 2, 2011 at 11:12 PM

        I could say the exact same thing about my first experience with kasha!! It didn’t look cooked, so I added more water but then it was a water-logged mass of goo. OK, to be fair, that was my second time eating, first time cooking it. The first time, I used the “boil in a bag” kasha. It was wonderful. I havent dared to experiement yet how to get the bulk stuff to get as fluffy as the boil-in-a-bag kind, but maybe it isn’t the same thing: toast it with some oil and reduce the water. I should try it again… I have some dill that would go well with kasha. :)

      • kitblue said, on November 5, 2011 at 10:49 PM

        Yes Janet, kasha should be toasted first. Many recipes also include egg … I went to find my copy of Laurel’s Kitchen to give you more precise information but it is not in its place. I remember needing it for research recently so it is likely with some other books in a safe place that I can’t now recall. It will surface at some point. Unfortunately in the meantime I cannot add any more clarity.

      • janet @ the taste space said, on November 2, 2011 at 11:14 PM

        Actually, I forgot that that kasha was really good in this breakfast bowl: http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/multigrain-oatmeal-with-quinoa-and-kasha/

  8. Zoa said, on November 2, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I have the Candle Cafe cookbook too, and have been less than impressed with the results when I cook from it. Their ideas seem good, but the recipes just don’t seem to quite deliver. This is a perfect example. I love millet too, but you’re right, what you’re really really going to want from this dish is a big glob of those wonderful mashed sweet potatoes. What you ended up with, however, would probably work well with various salsas or chutneys or really tart salads on the side.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on November 2, 2011 at 9:36 PM

      I know, it is such a shame. They just came out with the Candle 79 cookbook, too. I wonder how that will compare. I find the resto cookbooks usually lackluster. :(

  9. Emma said, on November 3, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    My millet is always sticky so I just definitely make this recipe. Well, besides it sounds delicious! I’ve just read your comments and it seems the secret may be the toasting. I followed Ashley’s method last time but skipped that step..

  10. gena said, on November 4, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    Absolutely one of my favorite NYC restaurant dishes. You recreated it exquisitely!

  11. Ashley said, on November 4, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    This is a great addition to a Thanksgiving meal. :) Your modification suggestions are great – less millet and mashing some of the black beans.

  12. [...] Kitchen Scale ($20-40). Indispensable for bakers, but I adore it for my cooking escapades as well. How big is your cabbage or sweet potato? [...]

  13. [...] in his granola-making days, he bought millet for granola.  Instead, the millet made its way into savoury [...]

  14. [...] a small change in herbs or ingredients can change a meal, and a new technique can have great results. But sometimes, it doesn’t make [...]

  15. Joan Crounse said, on March 23, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    I bought the Candle Cafe cookbook and think that it’s really dishonest to sell a cookbook in which the recipes are not the same as what is served at the restaurant. In none of the millet recipes I read did it mention browning the grain. Just comparing the photos above show that the recipes are off. This is simply wrong.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on March 23, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Yeah, it can be disheartening. I find more cookbooks from restos to be a bit finicky like that. You’d think the recipes would be foolproof if they were made every day in a resto but for some reason, it rarely happens. :P Hopefully you can piece things together with some of my suggestions. :)


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