My cooking uses three grades of extra-virgin olive oil, pictured above. The square bottle lives by my stove, affected by heat and light. It contains my everyday, cooking-grade olive oil, the one I use when I want a little olive oil flavor, but the oil is not a major contributor to the overall flavor of the dish. (I use an identical bottle of canola oil when I want a neutral-flavored oil.)
My go-to everyday oil is Goya, a Spanish oil. I started using it years ago when it won a taste test by Consumer Reports. It’s tasty for its price – I pick it up in the Spanish aisle of Talin Market. Most supermarket olive oils would probably be fine for everyday cooking oil.
At the next level, though, I get picky. “Good olive oil” is the kind I use when the flavor of the oil is integral to the overall dish – for instance, brushed on that flatbread, or in my go-to tomato sauce where there are only three other ingredients. This is also the type I will almost always use in salads and salad dressings.
So picky am I about my good olive oil that I special order it. In graduate school, Arne and I spent six months in California, where we discovered a restaurant called Girasole. Their table oil, the one they served in a dish with salt and herbs for dipping their wonderful focaccia bread, made us swoon. We asked, and were told it was Sciabica, a Californian oil. And Sciabica has been my favorite oil ever since.
The picture shows two Sciabica oils. The big bottle is their Marsala blend, which I’m currently using for my good oil. I also use their Mission variety for this.
The small Sciabica bottle in front (it doesn’t look much smaller because of the angle) is my really special olive oil. I mostly use this for bread dipping, or very special salads, where its amazing flavor can stand out. This is an unfiltered variety, rich green and powerfully flavored, and quite expensive. This oil is a splurge – but worth it.
There are many, many brands of olive oil out there, and a huge range of quality and price. I’d love to know what my readers use, especially if there’s something you really love!