Spicy shrimp dish turns up the heat

Mario Batali

Rock shrimp tastes like lobster, but is in fact part of the shrimp family. Similar to lobster, they’re harvested in water 120 to 240 feet deep. Its name coming from the rock-like hardness of its shell, the rock shrimp is cousin to brown, pink and white shrimp.

Frozen or fresh, peeled and deveined or whole and headless, they’re widely available. Ceci beans are as well, which makes rock shrimp and ceci one of my favorite go-to meals.

Ceci beans, also called garbanzo beans or chickpeas, are legumes usually sold dried or canned. Like most dried beans, they must be soaked before cooking. Chickpea flour, ground from dried beans, is the main ingredient in panissa, a flat pancake served as antipasto and bread in Liguria, Italy, and in the Sicilian panelle dish. Always buy dried beans from a market with a good turnover; the older they are, the harder they are to get just right when cooking.

If you have ever eaten at Babbo, my flagship restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village, you might remember ceci beans served on bruschetta as an amuse-bouche while you scanned the menu. Remarkably receptive to flavorful concoctions, ceci beans are one of those recipe vessels that make it difficult to trace every ingredient; therefore, chefs love them.

In rock shrimp and ceci, the beans soak in all of the heat-infused olive oil from the hot finger chilies, whole and thinly sliced. The acid from the lemon juice and fresh bite from the parsley also help break down that chili spice, disappearing into a whole marriage of a dish served at OTTO now.

Rock Shrimp and Ceci

1 pound fresh cleaned rock shrimp

1 pound canned chickpeas

3 ounces freshly peeled ginger

3 hot finger chilies, whole

3 hot finger chilies, thinly sliced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/2 cup to coat the chickpeas

Salt and pepper

4 lemons

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

To cook the shrimp, bring a pot of salted water to boil with 3 whole chilies, 2 lemons, halved, and 1 1/2 ounces of peeled ginger.

Add the rock shrimp to the boiling water and cook for about 40 seconds or until the shrimp turn pink.

Strain and shock with cold water or ice water. Set the shrimp aside.

In a large bowl, toss the chickpeas with 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for about 5 minutes or until crispy.

In a small sauce pot, bring 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil to a simmer. Add the sliced chilies and the remaining ginger; simmer for about 10 minutes, then let cool.

Mix the toasted chickpeas, the poached rock shrimp and the ginger chili oil in a bowl with the juice of 2 lemons and the chopped parsley. Serves 4.

Per serving: 482 calories; 31 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 58 percent calories from fat); 28 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 179 mg cholesterol; 1,099 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 6 g fiber.