Pasta Salad with Feta, Basil and Tuaca Figs
I made this salad for my second-ever wedding that I catered on my own many years ago, it was a good mix and I’m kind of amazed I don’t cater with it more often. Those first weddings were so memorable—I wanted to provide awesome and spectacular food but was still learning what it meant to haul everything off-site, and calling myself ‘the caterer who goes where no other caterers go’ it’s no surprise that I acquired a few stories for the books. Here is a blanket apology to any of my overloaded workers from those early days when I would understaff! You know who you are.
This was also the time I started writing my own Catering Rule Book: things that I should always take into account, bring, plan for, and most importantly…things to which I must say ‘no‘. Since then I have occasionally bent or broken those little rules and have always regretted it.
Another rule to put in the Book—Abide by my Catering Rule Book.
Tuaca is an Italian brandy, slightly sweet with more than a hint of vanilla. It’s fabulous to sip with desserts, so it seemed the perfect elixir for marinating the figs. And dried figs—awesome in either sweet or savory dishes like chutneys, pilafs, compotes, and butters—they are right up there in my list of all time favorite foods. Calimyrnas are the California version of the Smyrna fig, nutty and sweet, with a yellowish skin.
Fresh basil and good feta is key. I used the creamy mild Egyptian Feta for the wedding salad, this was back in the days when I frequented Bill’s Imports in Minneapolis and had access to at least ten varieties of feta. These days I can sometimes find Bulgarian feta (similar to Egyptian, very mild and not very salty) or I use whatever feta I can find but use less salt in the seasoning.
This little parlor trick with a very French name transforms any green leaves into long thin strips of edible confetti. Stack or roll the leaves, then thinly slice. Very cute.
Enjoy, and consider writing your own little Rule Book.
Pasta Salad with Basil, Feta and Tuaca Figs
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
At least a few hours ahead, marinate:
6 Smyrna or Calmyrna dried Figs, diced with stems removed
2 Tablespoons Tuaca or another similar brandy (or try Balsamic Vinegar with honey for a non-alcohol version)
Cook in salt water:
1/2 pound Pasta—farfalle or penne pasta
Rinse, drain, then toss with:
Gently mix together in a bowl:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 cup Feta, crumbled (especially good with creamy Egyptian or Bulgarian Feta)
1/2 Red Pepper (or other bell pepper), sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup Fresh Basil, chopped chiffonade
Pepper to taste
Serve at room temperature.