We tend to think of olive oil as something to measure out in cups - to fry or sauté with, for example, or as a significant component in a dressing. But in the kitchens and on the tables of many cooks in other countries, good-quality olive oil is more a condiment than anything else, spooned rather than glugged out of the bottle. That's because it is prized less as a medium than for its unique flavors. That's the case with our San Damiano Extra Virgin Olive Oil, from a single estate along the coast of Liguria in northwestern Italy.
Ligurian oil largely comes from an olive cultivar called the Taggiasca (in France, it's called the Cailletier and, when cured into an eating olive, we know it as the Niçoise). Wines are reflections of their grapes and olive oils are likewise: their taste and aroma the sensory mirrors of the variety of olive from which they are made, where and how those olives grow, and the way that the oil is made. Taggiasca makes for an oil that is so much like melted butter that you'd be forgiven for thinking it so: sweet, soft, with flavors of almond and cashew. In those ways, it is distinct from the more "green," peppery oils of Tuscany, themselves reflections of different olive cultivars grown there.
And so, San Damiano EVOO is delicious as a dribbled-on topping for foods where you might also enjoy melted butter: on poached fish, for example (as in this week's recipe for Walleye), or in a Piedmontese bagna cauda, or for dipping fingers and steamed artichoke leaves, or - well, wherever melted butter might otherwise be.