Green Curry Noodles

I have lived in Chicago for seven years now. That is an insane number to me, but I guess the old adage is true – time flies when you’re having fun. Still, I can’t believe I have lived here that long and only within the last couple years have I discovered how easy it is to get to the Korean grocery store and find all kinds of pan-Asian goodies. It has almost become part of my weekly shopping ritual.

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That said, if the Korean or other Asian grocery store is not part of your weekly shopping ritual, you can still make this dish. Admittedly, though, it just won’t be as good. It just can’t be! But if you want to go the extra mile, you can order a lot of ingredients online, and trust me when I say it is worth it. I tried making a version of this that included only easily obtained ingredients, and it just wasn’t the same. Still good, but when tasted side-by-side with the more authentic version, I had to admit that one definitely had more flavor and depth than the other.

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This noodle dish runs somewhere between a soup and noodle-with-sauce thing. You’ll have a bit of coconut-y juice at the bottom of your bowl, but there really isn’t enough broth to fill your bowl to the brim. The vegetables here are all optional and you can sub in whatever you think would taste good. I had spring onions from the farmer’s market, so those definitely made it in. I cooked all the vegetables separately, which may seem time consuming, but I like doing it that way so the flavors don’t get muddled. The end result tastes very fresh and healthful.

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Green Curry Noodles

*The curry paste recipe here is just enough for this dish, but feel free to double or triple the recipe to have a supply of curry paste. It freezes well.

*I included my notes for substitutions in parentheses, but do try to find the real stuff.

2-inch piece of galangal (or 1-inch piece of ginger)
6-inch piece of lemongrass

2 cloves garlic
kaffir lime leaves (or zest of one lime)
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coconut oil

1 13.5-oz coconut milk (try to find one without any preservatives or additives)
13.5 oz water

6 oz somen noodles (soba would be great here as well) 
6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into thin strips
1 small sweet potato, cut into wedges or 1/2-inch strips
1 chinese eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch circles and halved
1 cup mushrooms of your choosing, sliced
3 stalks spring onions, halved
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

cilantro, for garnish
fresh red chile slices, for garnish

To make the curry paste, chop each of the ingredients into small pieces. In a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients together – start with one, then once it’s mashed nicely, add another, and so on. Add a bit of kosher or other flaky salt with each ingredient to help macerate each one. At the end, you should have a nice paste, but if you’re having a hard time getting it to that consistency in the m&p, you can use a blender or food processor.

In a large pot, scoop a big heaping tablespoon of the coconut cream that gathers on one end of the can into a pan. Stir it around and let it sizzle. Add the curry paste and let cook for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk and cream and water. Also add the tofu. Turn heat to medium low and let it slowly warm.

Meanwhile, cook your veggies and noodles (according to package directions). Here’s how I did my veg, but feel free to use your favorite method:
Sweet potatoes: steamed
Eggplant: grilled (on a grill pan)
Mushrooms: pan-fried
Spring onions: grilled (on a grill pan)

When everything is ready to go, add it all to the pot with the coconut curry. Toss the tomatoes in at this point as well. Taste for seasoning (add salt if it tastes bland or just off). Garnish with cilantro and red chiles.

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Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions

I sat on the stoop this morning drinking coffee, catching up on emails, and doing a bit of work. It was chilly – around 50 degrees – but the sun was shining and I was determined to get some rays on my face. Nothing like the morning sun to set your mood for the day.

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This recipe comes mostly from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. I added a few tweaks but the pancakes, the layering of flavors, the techniques – all Yotam’s genius at work. In subsequent servings I sprinkled roasted pumpkin seeds and Aleppo pepper on top. Smoked paprika would be lovely as well. The original recipe calls for a dollop of crème fraîche, which we happened to have on hand (homemade, in fact, by Eric!), but greek yogurt would work equally well.

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So with this spring weather we’ve been enjoying lately, I am more and more excited about summer fun. I recently picked up a new sleeping bag for summer camping adventures. We’ve been borrowing Eric’s brother’s bag for a while now, so it was time to finally invest in our own. It is the coolest sleeping bag I have ever seen, and I’m so, SO excited to use it. I’m really trying hard to not wish away these beautiful spring days until our first camping trip of the season.

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Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions
adapted, slightly, from Plenty

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon za’atar or roasted thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

1 3/4 cups chickpea flour
2 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper
2 egg whites

arugula leaves, to serve
crème fraîche or greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 275. Arrange the cherry tomatoes skin side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the onions, za’atar, and salt and pepper. After a minute, turn the heat to medium and slowly cook the onions until lightly caramelized, around 20-30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then combine with pancake batter. Heat a pan over medium heat and oil generously – enough so the pancakes don’t stick. Pour a small amount of the batter in the pan to form 6-8″ cakes. When holes and bubbles start to form, about 2 minutes, flip the cake and cook for another minute more. Continue until all the batter is gone.

To serve, layer the onions and tomatoes on top of the chickpea pancake. Top with arugula and crème fraîche as well as any other finishes you like – nuts, seeds, etc.

Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

[Please excuse the poorly-lit iPhone photos.]

I stopped by the farmer’s market this weekend to pick up some peppers for our Sunday afternoon of pickling and canning. In the process, I came across these cute little cherry tomatoes. And kale. And in my search for some type of cheese to throw into this evolving salad, I bought some cheese curds.

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It may seem like a strange combo, but it was really tasty. Be careful when adding the salt because cheese curds are pretty salty already. Eric and I ate this, walked around the neighborhood a bit, then came back and canned 13 jars worth of pickles and pickled peppers. If they turn out like I think they will, I’ll share the recipe on here.

Eric also got his first lesson in mandolin technique when slicing the cucumbers. About two minutes after I showed him how to use it and warned him to be very careful not to chop his finger off – you guessed it – he sliced the top of his finger off. The cukes were fine, though, and so was he. As for me, my eyes burned putting my contacts in this morning from the pepper oils that are still on my fingers, but I think it will be worth it.

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Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

1 bunch Lacinato kale, finely shredded
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup squeaky cheese curds, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh cayenne pepper or other spicy pepper, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, kale, and cheese curds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pepper, and lemon. Dress the salad to your liking and season to taste with salt.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad

I’m back in the US of A and enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been getting in lots of cuddle time with my kitties and Eric in between all the activities – Lollapalooza, pickling and canning (!), farmer’s markets, and workouts. Eric got my bike tuned up over the summer so we’ve been biking everywhere! Biking = freedom, and it’s been awesome.

I’m working on sorting the 2000+ photos and videos that I took over the past month. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia, one week in Uganda, and then one week on the Kenyan coast. Every part of the trip was different and incredible. What a blissful month.

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One thing I love about being home, though, is the ability to cook the way I like to cook. In the past week I’ve been to the farmer’s market twice and am so in love with the variety of veg we get here in the summer. I bought about 10lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I plan on making bloody mary’s with, and I pickled loads of different varieties of chiles today. The kale in this salad also comes from the market, and while I do enjoy the kale you find all over Kenya – sukuma wiki – I still prefer dino kale in my salads.

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Kale and Black Lentil Salad with Black Pepper + Avocado Dressing

The ripeness of the avocado for the dressing is important – if it’s not soft enough, it won’t mash nicely. You could alternatively use a food processor, but it’s much simpler to just make it in a mason jar. I like it still kind of chunky.

I actually bought the black lentils at a health food store in Nairobi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with other sturdy lentils.

1 bunch dino kale
1/2 cup dried black lentils, rinsed and cooked 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 carrots, shredded on a grater
1 big heirloom tomato, diced

2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
1/2 very ripe avocado, finely diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Remove kale from the stems and cut it into fine ribbons. Combine in a large bowl with the lentils, chickpeas, carrots, and tomato.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with salt to make a paste. Add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds and process until the seeds are crushed and everything is combined. Scoop the paste into a jar and add the avocado and liquid ingredients. Use a fork to mash up the avocado in the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.

Toss salad with dressing and add salt to taste.

 

Three Bean Chili with Turnip Greens

I know I have already posted two other chili recipes on here, but something with this cold weather has me making yet more chili. Different chili. This time I wanted to add some greens and lots of beans. I pureed the chili using a hand blender just before adding the (cooked) beans and greens because I wanted a really smooth texture rather than a really chunky chili. I also discovered that I like garnishing chili with fresh tomatoes like these little golden cherry tomatoes. They’re pretty, but they also add some summery freshness, which may not exactly be seasonal, but it is a nice contrast.

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I still had frozen borlotti beans from when I made a bunch last time, but you could use any variety of beans you prefer. Kidney beans would be more traditional, but I can see pinto beans also tasting great. I have been making huge batches of beans the slow way (soaking overnight and then boiling the next day) and freezing them so I always have some on hand when I want them. I’ve also seen these quick-cooking beans at the grocery store in the refrigerated section of vegetables. I think they have already been soaked – they only take 15 minutes to cook. If you can find those, they work well also.

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Three Bean Chili with Turnip Greens

2 yellow onions, diced
1 head garlic, minced
4 serrano peppers, minced
1 pound ground turkey
2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, whole (if hand blending) or diced
2 heaping tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons chile paste*
4 cups water
1 teaspoon shaved dark chocolate
1.5 cups black beans, cooked
1.5 cups garbanzo beans, cooked
1.5 cups borlotti (or other) beans, cooked
1 bunch turnip greens, stems removed and finely chopped/shredded

Sauté the onions, garlic, and serrano peppers in a large pot (like a dutch oven) in olive oil or butter over medium high heat. When they begin to soften, add the ground turkey and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until the turkey is browned.

Add the tomatoes, spices, chile paste, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste-test not and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the shaved dark chocolate and allow it to melt into the chili.

Here you have the option of hand blending the chili to smooth out the texture. If you prefer a chunky chili and used diced tomatoes, you can leave it as is.

Lastly, add the beans and shredded turnip greens. Allow beans to warm through and serve.

*I almost always have a container of chile paste in the fridge from other recipes. I take a package (or packages) of dried chiles – check the Mexican aisle – like guajillos. I dry toast them in a pan, then soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until they’re soft. Use a blender to purée the chiles by adding in water a little at a time. You can add this to soups, chili, or even make it into a hot sauce by thinning it out and adding vinegar, a touch of honey, and salt. If it is too much of a fuss to make simply for this, you can omit it, though it certainly adds another element to the chili.

Kenyan Recipes: Pilau + Kachumbari

Pilau is a spiced rice dish that is found all along the Swahili coast of Africa. Often it is made with shredded chicken or bits of beef, but this version is vegetarian. It is a dish that is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, and it tastes great alongside another Kenyan specialty: kachumbari. Kachumbari is basically the African version of pico de gallo, except you make it a bit spicier and the chiles are of a different variety (unknown to me) that is not jalapeño.

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Here in Nairobi, you can find the pilau spice mixture at practically any grocery store or market, but you can make it at home as well. A standard recipe is here.

Also, here are a few pictures from our little trip to the suburb of Karen to visit the elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary last weekend.

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check out those eyelashes!

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this guy is such a douche
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that tongue – wow!

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Pilau 

1 cups basmati or jasmine rice (I used brown basmati rice)
1 medium red onion, diced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
1 1/2 tablespoon pilau masala

salt and pepper

Cook the rice per package directions.

In a large pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil. Once the onions are transparent, add the pilau masala and stir around until fragrant. Add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional two minutes or so, until the rice is warmed and the ingredients are mixed well.

Serve with kachumbari on the side (recipe below).

Kachumbari

3 large tomatoes (the variety I find in Nairobi is similar to a roma tomato, so that is what I use), diced
1/2 medium red onion
2 small hot chiles (serrano would work well), minced
1 clove raw garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and refrigerate.

Cheese-less Pizza

Eric and I have started a Friday night pizza ritual. We generally pick up some multigrain pizza dough from Whole Foods, though making your own is just easy (but messier!). It seems crazy that I only recently brought home my first haul from the farmer’s market. My Saturdays have been so busy, I just never had time to go. Nonetheless, we turned Friday night pizza night into Saturday morning pizza day because we wanted to load up our pizza with fresh veg from the market. We also bought baby kale, sorrel, and radishes for a perfect spring salad.

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Radishes are cute, aren’t they?

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We eat most of our pizzas without cheese these days. I already have enough of a cheese habit – I don’t need it on my pizza, also! The key, then, is really good tomatoes. We always buy San Marzano in the can for this pizza, then load on tons of fresh garlic and black pepper. I rarely make an actual sauce – the tomatoes with fresh garlic are enough to make this a great meal.

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And for the salad, I just juice some lemons into a mason jar, put in equal amounts of olive oil, sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it up and drizzle it on – easy.

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So there’s no real recipe here. For this particular pizza, we chopped asparagus into little discs and sprinkled them all over. Fresh slices of an heirloom tomato went on top, and make sure to sprinkle salt over the whole shebang. And seriously, do not skimp on the garlic. I think I added 5-6 cloves to this pizza. I minced them finely, but sometimes I’ll just do thin slices. Eric and I have been practicing making pizza so that he can make it perfectly while I’m gone all summer. His version will likely include granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic, but even he can handle rolling out the dough and smearing canned tomatoes all over it!

Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

I know, the title of this recipe makes it sound disgusting. Frankly, my pictures don’t look so hot either. Spiced buttermilk? That thought you’re thinking right now – that was also my first thought when reading the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. But then my second and third thoughts went something like this – a) it’s Madhur Jaffrey, so it probably is good despite the nasty title, and b) who the heck cares if it sounds nasty? I’m going to make it anyway. So I did. And guess what? It’s pretty great.

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Now, after adding a cup of buttermilk to an acidic pot of tomatoes and spices, as you might expect, it curdled just a bit. But don’t be terrified! Think of it as cottage cheese. Still good. Also, when I looked up other spiced buttermilk recipes, the internet seems to be pointing me to a chilled drink. Ms. Jaffrey says to serve this soup-like concoction at room temperature over rice; therefore, I assume it is different than the spiced buttermilk that the rest of the internet is drinking.

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Indian Spiced Buttermilk with Peas and Spinach

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno (or other hot, green chile), seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and seeded, chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 large handful fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a small pot and sauté the garlic and jalapeno. After about a minute, add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and tomato. Stir around for about 30 seconds. Add a sprinkle of salt and then stir in 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the peas and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes, until peas are thawed. Add the buttermilk and pepper, plus any extra salt seasoning you may need. Serve with brown rice at room temperature.

Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes

Some time ago – I can’t remember why – I took this cookbook from my mom. I can’t remember if she was offering it or if I outright stole it, but it sat up in a shelf that I could not reach for a good two years or so since.

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And that’s why moving once in a while is a good thing. I found this book when we were moving out of our old apartment and realized that I should be using it. I took this book even before I knew who Madhur Jaffrey was or that she was considered the “world authority on Indian food”, but tonight’s dinner confirmed her expertise.

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This book was published in 1981 and includes a collection of vegetarian recipes from East Asia. China, Japan, India, Korea, and even Indonesia are all covered. I started with an Indian recipe, though, since this realm seems to be her specialty.

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Of course, I tweaked it a bit. And even though Fenugreek is listed in the title in the book, I could not find any in my not-very-thorough search, so I just omitted it. The recipe is still great.

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Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking

1 small to medium head of cauliflower
2 medium-sized potatoes (I used russet)
6 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 whole dried hot chile peppers
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic (my addition)
1 teaspoon fresh minced jalapeno (my addition)

2 ripe tomatoes, diced (my addition)

Chop the cauliflower into small, thin flowerets. Chop the potatoes into 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 cubes. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes. When done, dry them in a dish towel.

Heat the oil in a large skillet on high heat. When the oil starts smoking, add the fenugreek (if using), fennel, cumin, and peppers. Stir for a minute, then add the garlic and jalapeno. Add the potatoes and cauliflower almost immediately and toss together all the ingredients.

Cook for a few minutes, then toss in the turmeric, coriander, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir around and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and let simmer on low for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat, then sprinkle in the garam masala and stir. Taste for seasoning. I needed to add a smidge more salt to mine.

Moroccan Chickpea & Millet Salad

Part of being back in school with a totally new schedule is figuring out how and when to eat. I used to have a pretty routine schedule – breakfast at home, sandwich for lunch, run, dinner at home. For one, I’m pretty sick of sandwiches. I just can’t eat them anymore. And two, I’m not home or away at such predictable times anymore. One thing I have been doing to make sure I always have food with me (after all, now that my income is about a quarter of what it once was, we and I cannot afford to just go buy a $10 lunch whenever I am hungry) is to make a big batch of interesting and nutritious salads. I’ve also been carrying around homemade granola that is pretty awesome – I’ll share that recipe soon also.

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Anyway, this recipe was inspired by this Moroccan Chickpea recipe I saw recently on Serious Eats. I changed it up a bit and added some millet to add a little more substance for lunch. Millet is a new favorite of mine. It sort of feels and tastes like couscous, and it cooks up very quickly. I’ve also been looking for a way to use the preserved lemons that I made at the beginning of the summer, and this recipe fit perfectly. You can make your own by following this recipe or just use some fresh lemon zest and a little salt.

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Moroccan Chickpea & Millet Salad

Extra virgin olive oil
~1/2 pound spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 large tomato
diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 preserved lemon rind, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup millet
salt and pepper

Combine the millet with 2 1/2 cups water in a pot, let the water come to an almost boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let it sit for 20-25 minutes. Sauté the garlic in a little olive oil in a large pan for a minute or two, then add the chickpeas. In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs, tomato, cumin, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Add this mixture and the red wine vinegar to the pan with chickpeas and garlic and stir to make sure all the chickpeas are covered in this mixture. Now add the spinach and continue to cook until there is no more liquid in the pan. Pull off the heat and set aside. When the millet is finished, toss it with the chickpeas, preserved lemons, and salt and pepper.