At the Market With...
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.
Spanish-food expert and chef Katie Button
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 ingredient. “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. 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. 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, Button says. 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.
IN HER ELEMENT Button gave up a career in biomedical engineering to pursue her passion for cooking. She worked in Spain for seven months and was captivated by the country’s cuisine.
HOME COOKING The chef’s favorite meals are those she makes for her family.