Katie Button, a Spanish-food expert, an award-winning chef, and the mom of two budding foodies, swears by the power of olive oil to make her dishes shine. 

By By Genevieve Ko
October 12, 2018
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Katie Button still remembers the first time she made pesto. She used whatever olive oil she had, and the sauce ended up inedible. “That was a big first lesson in the importance of using different oils in different ways,” she says. Now she is a champion of the crucial cooking ingredient that has numerous health benefits. “Olive oil from Spain is a favorite—it’s amazing,” says Button, who trained as a biomedical engineer and likes to experiment to find ideal uses for the many types.

Button loves to make a big paella for family and friends.

She stocks her kitchens with single-varietal oils from Arbequina, Picual, and Oji Blanca olives. Button uses the mild and fruity Arbequina in cold sauces like mayonnaise and salsa verde. “Picual’s herbal and peppery notes are great for dressing salads or for finishing dishes,” she says. Button says she likes to use extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing for salad adds richness. Oji Blanca is on the spicy, bitter side. It’s best to drizzle it on a hot dish, like pasta, because the high temperature mellows it out, she adds.

The chef also works with blended oils. “Mixing the olives balances out the flavor,” she says. She orders cases of Molino La Condesa for her three Asheville, North Carolina, restaurants; it’s California Olive Ranch blends made from Spanish olives at home, where she drizzles mild olive oil over tomato toast for her older daughter, who’s not yet a fan of Oji Blanca’s spicy kick. Button laughs. “I know she’ll eventually learn to like it as much as I do,” she says.

Fun fact: As a Spanish food pro, Button naturally believes in the restorative properties of a leisurely Spanish meal, which is exactly why she named her new cookbook Cúrate, which means “cure yourself." Inside you'll find her go-to meal when she's cooking for a crowd (spoiler: it's paella) and her beloved recipe for a salty-sweet eggplant appetizer. (Related: 11 Healthy Cookbooks That Your Friends Will Love to Get As Gifts)

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