After meandering from store to store in downtown LA’s Arts District, my sister and I found ourselves considerably hungry. I enumerated all the nearby places we could eat at: a Californian cafe, tacos, sausages, pies but when I mentioned vegan, her face lit up.
“Let’s try vegan”.
Cafe Gratitude, where we ate, does vegan really well and we had a delicious meal during which we weighed the possibility and the difficulties of adopting a vegan diet.
After a pensive silence, I blurted out I would miss prosciutto. And eggs. On the way home, we stopped at an Italian deli, and bought fresh ricotta and speck. There we were, back in the arms of pigs and cows.
Speck is not terribly easy to find here and it is never as good as the one you would eat between two slices of peasant bread, with some Asiago cheese, up in the Alps, where speck hails from.
Speck is like prosciutto – just better. It’s a deboned, flayed-open ham that has been cured, cold-smoked, and dried. Not as fatty as bacon and more delicate in flavor.
Amongst its many applications, adding it to pasta is a way to flavor and make a simple dish more interesting. Which is exactly what we did with pasta and broccoli when we got home.
- Start by cutting up some broccoli (or broccoli rabe, even better) and blanch them in a pot of heavy salted water. Drain but reserve the cooking water.
- Put some olive oil and some garlic in a frying pan and add the broccoli. Let sautee for a few minutes, adding salt and pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a little bit of water which will help make the broccoli rather creamy. Once the broccoli are fully cooked, add a few tablespoons of pecorino cheese and mix everything for about a minute, to let the cheese melt.
- In the meantime, bring the broccoli cooking water back to boiling and cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, cut small strips of speck.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the broccoli pan, heating up for a minute and adding the speck strips. Mix everything and serve immediately.