How to Pair Extra Virgin Olive Oils with Different Foods

Ribeye

We celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday last February in Washington D.C. My mom took the extended family to dinner at her favorite French restaurant, in Georgetown. The restaurant, La Chaumière, featured such delicacies as pike dumplings, or quenelles, roasted rack of lamb, and sautéed halibut. Mom discussed the wines with the restaurant owner beforehand. They settled on two French wines, a red Burgundy and a white Vouvray. Both paired beautifully with the meal’s different courses.

The dinner comes to mind because I recently heard a fascinating talk about pairing different styles of extra virgin olive oil with foods. The talk, by olive oil guru and cookbook author Fran Gage, was part of a one day-course held at the University of California, Davis, Olive Center.

Gage based her food-pairing guidelines on three different styles of EVOO:

  1. Delicate oils, which have a slight bitterness and fruitiness. Most of the oils California Olive Ranch produces fall into this category
  2. Medium oils, which offer a pleasant bitterness and pungency
  3. Robust oils, which deliver the highest pungency and bitterness. These oils, which include our Olio Nuovo, also deliver the highest level of polyphenols – the chemical substances found in plants that may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Gage went out of her way to say these aren’t hard-and-fast rules. They’re excellent guidelines, however.

To start, here are some guidelines for delicate oils such as our Arbequina varietal:

  • As substitutes for butter. (The conversion is always replacing four parts butter with three parts EVOO – so four Tablespoons of butter becomes 3 Tablespoons EVOO.)
  • For all-purpose mayonnaise and mashed potatoes
  • With tender salad greens
  • Drizzled over meats to bring out the sweetness of the meat
  • With dishes that use blue cheese
  • For “strong” pestos such as one made from wild arugula
  • With tomatoes that aren’t quite ripe
  • In dishes with strong tastes and components, such as smoked fish/salted cod
  • As an ingredient when making pizza dough
  • When baking cakes and cookies. It’s always a good choice for baking.
  • For pound cake.

Next up: pairing foods with medium oils.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch