When I first married, I stocked the pantry with a can of affordable Spanish olive oil sourced through a friend. But as time meandered along and finances became more secure, I began to buy better quality oil, until I was using an organic variety procured at our local flea market. Somewhere along the line, I also purchased a bottle of high-end Italian olive oil at an upscale Tokyo supermarket.

One spring day I found myself home alone fixing a solitary dinner. I harvested a few heads of the gorgeous red oak leaf lettuce I had planted from seed, mashed some garlic in a mortar with a few pinches of Japanese sea salt, added some ground Tellicherry black pepper and splashed in my homemade red wine vinegar. What olive oil did I reach for to finish it? The high-end Italian.

Using such an oil on a beautiful salad is not hard to grasp for any of us who care about what we are eating. However, using a pricey oil on everything — including sauteed foods — is more of a stretch for most. The expense adds up. Nonetheless, I found that the tastes of our simple field vegetables were greatly elevated once sauteed in the better oil (with Japanese sea salt).