Vellutata di Ceci con Gamberi (Creamy Chick Pea Soup with Shrimp and Anise Seed)
Recipe from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino and Janet Fletcher (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)Located in the historic part of Rende, a university town near Cosenza, the restaurant Pantagruel specializes in seafood. This velvety soup, which chef Tonino Napoli garnished with the local black anise seed, was part of a parade of superb seafood dishes I enjoyed there. I have not been able to find black anise seed outside of Calabria-and it is even hard to find there-so I have substituted store-bought green anise seed. The flavors are comparable, although the black has a more licorice-like taste.
Suggested wine: Romangia Società Cooperativa "Lamarina," Cannonau di Sardegna, Sardinia. Alternate: Nebbiolo Langhe
A vibrant but light red wine-lighter than most Pinot Noir-from a cooperative on Sardinia's northwest coast.
- ½ pound (225 grams) dried chick peas, soaked 12 hours in water to cover by several inches
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
Drain the soaked chick peas and put them in a 2-quart (2-liter) saucepan with 4 cups (1 liter) cold water. Bring to a simmer, skimming any foam. Adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook uncovered until the chick peas are soft, 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on age. Add the salt about 10 minutes before they are done. Let the chick peas cool in the cooking liquid. Strain and reserve the broth.
- 18 large unpeeled shrimp, about ¾ pound (340 grams)
- 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 celery rib, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon anise seed, crushed medium-fine in a mortar
- Ground hot red pepper
Make the shrimp stock: Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells. Devein the shrimp by slitting them down the back and pulling out the thin dark vein. Rinse the shrimp, then put them in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to poach them.
Put the shrimp shells, parsley, and salt in a 4-quart (4-liter) saucepan with 2 quarts (2 liters) cold water. Bring to a simmer, skimming any foam. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 45 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids, and set the stock aside.
Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart (4-liter) saucepan over moderate heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the drained chick peas and cook with the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of the shrimp stock. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 10 minutes to meld the flavors. In a blender, puree the contents of the saucepan until completely smooth. Strain the puree through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Using the reserved chick pea broth (1 cup of broth will probably be sufficient), thin the puree to a velvety consistency. Reheat the puree over moderate heat.
Taste for salt.
While the soup is reheating, bring the remaining 1 cup shrimp stock to a simmer in a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Add the reserved shrimp and cook, turning once, until they turn white, 1 to 2 minutes. If the chick pea soup still seems a little thick, use this flavorful shrimp stock to thin it.
To serve, divide the hot soup among six bowls. Divide the shrimp among the bowls. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of crushed anise seed and a dusting of hot pepper. Serve immediately.