Striking oil

You just dropped $20 on fancy olive oil. How do you get your money’s worth? I asked Steven Dambeck of Apollo Olive Oil (—recently named one of the world’s top 10 olive oils—about pairing foods with fine olive oil. He and chef Ame Harrington of the Elk Grove Co-op are working on a dinner that does just that.

“We start with a caprese salad. A lightly fruity, buttery oil enhances the heirloom tomatoes and brings out the richness of the mozzarella. That’s followed with a cold white-bean soup that needs a livelier, more pungent olive oil. By the time we’re done with just those two courses, people are very alert to the fact that oils, like different wines, react with food differently.

“As you get used to [pairing foods and oils], it’s actually just like wine. For things with a pure, simple character, like grilled light fish, you want an oil that’s light but alive, like our Mistral or Ligurian oils. For something like salmon, you might prefer a medium-spicy oil like our Sierra, or oils from southern Spain or Sicily.”