If a green salad is a summer wardrobe, this dressing is a ribbed cotton tank.

I don’t know about you, but as I’ve grown closer to middle-age, my wardrobe has become more and more predictable. I could probably draw a mathematical curve, illustrating the inverse relationship between my age and the number of exciting choices available to me in my closet. This has a little to do with a tight budget and five bodies to clothe, but more to do with a black hole that sucks all available shopping and/or morning-decision-making time into its void.

My solution to clothing myself is pretty simple: in the winter, I wear long-sleeved t-shirts; in the summer, I wear sleeveless cotton shirts or tank tops. At some point after the arrival of motherhood, I figured out that the easiest way to get myself dressed before noon was to fill my drawer with unassuming, similarly-toned cotton things. That way, I just grab anything from my shirt drawer, then pull a random skirt off my hanging rack (nothing will cover my arms or lower legs in the heat of summer), and I’m good to go.

Now, of course, there are times when this uniform just won’t do. Conveniently, though, since I have the social life of a typical 30-something with three young children, those times are few and far between.

My favorite summer salad dressing is not unlike my summer wardrobe: it’s simple, unassuming, and inexpensive. No, it won’t wow your friends at a fancy dinner party — but given the right accessories, it can be gussied up a bit. I can use this dressing on my salad almost daily for the length of summer and not grow tired of it until the very end. It can be whipped up in a flash, and you probably already have the necessary ingredients on hand (there are only three).

We no longer keep store-bought dressings in our refrigerator. Not that you can’t find good ones (who hasn’t been addicted to Annie’s Goddess Dressing at one point?). But I found that we never finished a bottle before it got gunky, and we usually ended up throwing out a good bit. Tired of this waste, and empowered by the ease of making a simple vinaigrette, I decided to stop buying the pre-made stuff, and rely on my own acids, oils, herbs and jars. Sure, those days when I’m in a hurry and realize we’re out of dressing, I feel a small setback in my urgency to get lunch. But then I remember that it literally takes less than a minute to make — the recipe is so simple it’s easy to memorize — and it’s always a minute well-spent.

If you want to dress it up, add any variety of summer herbs, or substitute your favorite vinegar for some or all of the lemon juice. The summer makes me crave the light, fresh acidity of the lemon, so that’s what I reach for most of the time. This recipe uses more salt than is typical in a vinaigrette, because I love salt with lemon. I buy organic lemons in a 2-pound bag and keep them in the fruit drawer of my frig — they last a few weeks, and I’m always sure to have what I need for my salad. After you juice them, you can throw the used rind in the freezer (in a ziplock bag) and use it for zest in baking recipes (zest the lemon while still frozen).


Simple Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close lid tightly and shake well.

Store dressing in the refrigerator. At cool temperatures, olive oil can solidify — just run the bottle under hot tap water and shake gently to restore the dressing to its desired consistency.

16 thoughts on “If a green salad is a summer wardrobe, this dressing is a ribbed cotton tank.

  1. There really is nothing as simple as a homemade vinaigrette, eh? I’ve been making them for several years now, and, except for the occasional ranch dressing one of the kids whines for, I never have to spend $3.99 for bottled dressing. And have you taken a look at those ingredients? Some are unpronounceable! (And I have been working on a homemade ranch, so I won’t have to buy store bought any more!)

    1. It really is amazing — once you get into the habit, it just doesn’t occur to you to buy dressing — except, yes, for the occasional ranch ; )

      Let me know when you work out that recipe!

  2. 1. you always look fab., honestly. And if you know me, I’m the void of color and I like it.

    2. I’ve been addicted for the past 2 years to a similar dressing kim burton gave me a few years ago.

    3. this is similar, yet even more simple. I’m going to make a batch!

    1. 1. oh, now, really… go ON….
      2. hmm… might have to check with her on that. or could you share it?
      3. awesome!

  3. I haven’t purchased bottled dressing for myself in ages, either. This sounds nice and easy-peasy for when I don’t feel like whipping up something more extravagant.

    Cindy, have you tried Homesick Texan’s Buttermilk Dressing? It’s my ranch go to – I make it almost weekly and about the only thing I wouldn’t dip in it is chocolate. But don’t hold me to that.

      1. I just went to the dressing link — I’ll have to try it! And may I say that I was SO HAPPY that she has an ENTIRE POST on how cilantro tastes like soap to some people. I found solace, realizing that I’m not as odd as I thought… 40% of people are JUST LIKE ME!!

  4. Katy, thank you! Just used my last half-lemon to make (a half serving of) this. Will toss it in the salad with dill once Kenton gets home. You’ve successfully catered to my one and only (as-yet) pregnancy craving: lemon. Wonderful!

    1. P.S. Hilarious about the inverse wardrobe curve. Too true, and I don’t have three children to excuse the fact that I wear black t-shirts almost every day with everything, year-round. It’s just so *easy* to simplify. Perhaps you should take heart that, not having seen you in several years, my mental image of you perhaps falls higher on the fashion scale than you might perceive yourself at the moment – ? You know, according to the curve. May we perpetually live in the past! Or maybe not . . . Truly, I always think you look very funky and cool.

      1. Rebecca — I, too, have been LOVING this dressing with a green salad topped with a big handful of fresh dill. I know that at some point I’ll tire of that combo, but no time soon.

        Thanks for your words of wardrobe encouragement ; ) I do think that the past year has seen a dramatic dip in my ability to keep up with personal appearance. I’ve found myself catching many a glance in a mirror, and the thought that comes to mind is, “She’s really ‘let herself go’.” (Perhaps my referring to my reflection in the third person signifies something more serious?) But then I take some solace, reminding myself that I can play catch-up in a few years, when life is less chaotic. (Hoping?)

  5. That is comforting about the cilantro b/c I know people who LOVE it and I HATE it. I can taste the tiniest bit in anything. I don’t mind a hint of it but that is all.

    You always look fine to me. But then again I have the same style shirt and capris in several colors so I may not be the best to judge.

    Thankful for the ranch recipe. I need to give it a try. 🙂

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