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

June 18, 2010 · 16 comments

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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.

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