I LOVE ❤️ ceci [beans], aka garbanzos , aka chickpeas. Ceci in Italian, garbanzos in Spanish and chickpeas in English are all the same thing. I just think they have a wonderful creamy sweet taste that is terrific when used in soups, stews, braises and salads. I remember my mom Josie making pasta e fasule, a wonderfully thick and soulful soup with pasta and ceci. You might know this name from Dean Martin’s famous song, That’s Amore!
This recipe works great with canned ceci beans (especially given how good they are these days). However, recently I have found a source for wonderfully fresh dried beans and a really quick method of cooking that doesn’t require an overnight soak. Also, I listened to a podcast recently about cooking beans (yes, I’m a food geek) where the “bean expert” said the average age of supermarket dried beans is 5 years, 😳 which explains why they sometimes take so long to cook. So, if you’re going to the trouble of preparing dried beans, search out really good ones.
My view of cooking with dried beans completely shifted after I read the book Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America. The book is about a group of farmers in Montana who took on the farming- and state-agricultural establishment and started growing organic lentils as crops to naturally inject nitrogen in the atmosphere into the soil instead of using fertilizer. The company, Timeless Natural Food, is now selling and shipping their lentils as well as amazing bean and grain products such as ceci, barley and farro. The first time I cooked the ceci I bought from Timeless, I could not believe the difference in taste and creaminess, especially in contrast to canned or dried beans from the grocery store. Just incredible.
For this recipe, I started thinking about spring being on the way. We’ll all be spending more time outdoors with friends and family. We’ll be eating lighter and working on our summer figures 🤽🏼♂️🏊🏻♂️🏄🏼♂️ 💪, so I came up with a light salad using these wonderful beans that is filling, flavorful and low in fat.
Shrimp and a creamed ceci beans is a really classic Italian combination, which was the inspiration for this recipe. You can easily tweak it adding your favorite raw or cooked vegetables to either the bean/shrimp mixture or the leaf salad. The backbone of the recipe is the ceci and the shrimp that have been marinated in the lemony salad dressing. Please don’t skip the anchovy breadcrumbs because they provide the perfect crunch with a salty taste that finishes the salad nicely.
- 2 15-oz cans Ceci/Garbanzo/Chickpeas drained or ingredients to cook dried bean (yields 1 qt. – this quick-cook method is from Cook’s Illustrated and later by thekitchn.com):
- 1 cup (about 9 oz. wt.) dried ceci
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 peeled and smashed garlic clove
- ½ onion, outer skin removed
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp baking soda
- ½ red onion, diced
- Lemony vinaigrette (2 parts lemon juice: 3 parts extra-virgin olive oil):
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (if you only have red wine vinegar, use 2 oz.)
- 6 oz. extra virgin oil oil
- Minced parsley
- Approx. 12 tail-on cooked shrimp
- If you purchase frozen shrimp: defrost completely in cold water, prepare pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water, plunge shrimp into boiling water, when it comes back to boil cook for 30 sec., quickly strain out and plunge in the ice water until chilled, drain
- 2–4 cups salad greens and arugula
- Anchovy breadcrumbs
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 peeled garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 or so oil packed anchovy fillets
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Minced parsley
- Cook the ceci beans (if using dried beans):
- In a medium sauce pot, add 3 cups water and the dried ceci, bay leaf, garlic, onion, salt and baking soda.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to low.
- Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours – check and stir occasionally and add more water if needed. Cook until the ceci have reached a consistency you enjoy (for me, soft with a little chew remaining).
- Remove from heat, let cool and store in a container in the fridge. You’ll need about 2-3 cups for this recipe. Use remaining in other salads and soups.
- Make the Lemony vinaigrette:
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix vigorously with a kitchen whisk. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Taste again. -or- this would be the time to pull out that immersion blender you bought and haven’t used.
- Make the anchovy bread crumbs:
- In a skillet large enough to hold the breadcrumbs in a thin layer (¼ inch or less), add the breadcrumbs. Place over medium-low heat and toast the breadcrumbs by swirling them around. Keep a close watch that they don’t burn. When nicely toasted, remove to a bowl.
- In the same skillet over medium-low heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil. When heated, add the garlic. Stir around until slightly golden.
- Add the anchovies and breakup with a wooden spoon. Stir with the garlic until it’s mostly dissolved.
- Add the breadcrumbs back in and stir to incorporate with the garlic and anchovy.
- If needed, add more olive oil (drops) to help bring the mixture together. Remove to a bowl.
- When completely cook, stir in a big pinch or 2 of the minced parsley. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Assemble to salad’s main ingredients (if possible, do this 1 day ahead of time and let marinate in fridge):
- In a bowl, add 2 cup drained ceci beans, cooked shrimp, diced red onion and a big pinch of minced parsley.
- Add 2 tbsp of the Lemony vinaigrette and stir to combine.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Adjust the amount of shrimp or ceci to your liking. The mixture should have a bit more than normal amount of dressing as it will dress the greens too.
- On a serving plater, arrange the salad greens. Spoon over the shrimp and ceci mixture. Top with the anchovy breadcrumbs and serve family style.