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My Favorite Dressing

Judging from the salad dressing aisle in the supermarket, you might imagine that dressings are difficult to make. Why else, after all, would there be such a plethora of bottled concoctions in all hues of the rainbow? But as is the case with many popular foodstuffs, it's all just marketing.

You don't need to buy something with a pretty label to dress your salad. You probably know this already. But I can tell that dressings intimidate you. Maybe just a little bit. It's okay. Really.

For years, I was completely unaware of just how easy it is to make dressings at home. I think I had some image in my head of a French chef in full regalia with scores of cowering underlings to do his bidding, and one, the scrawniest of the bunch perhaps, tucked away in a dark corner whisking violently, making the days salad dressings.

In reality, you don't need a scullery maid to make dressings. You don't even need to dirty a whisk. All you really need are some simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Oh, and a mason jar.

Dressings are generally composed of acid and oil and are usually rounded out by other flavorings--everything from fresh or dried herbs to garlic to mustard. You can vary the type of acid--citrus juice, any kind of vinegar--to great effect, and you can make dressings with a variety of cheeses and spices and little salty fish. But the principle is very basic and one you can modify to suit yourself and your salad.

The ratio to keep in mind is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. For instance, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to 3/4 cup olive oil. You may find, as I did, that you like more acidic dressings and choose to add a bit more vinegar, but the 3:1 ratio is a good place to begin.

The dressing below is my personal favorite. I always have the ingredients on hand to make it, and it is perfect for almost any type of salad. I like its bright, resilient flavor, but rather than overwhelm the greens it dresses, it enhances them. You can, of course, use a whisk to emulsify salad dressings and vinaigrettes, but I find the easiest and most satisfying method is to shake the ingredients in a tightly closed Mason jar.

Other articles you might enjoy: Salt Preserved Lemons and a Very Bright Dressing, Tart Greens With Apples and Pecans, Shaved Fennel Salad With Frisée, Almonds, and Raisins

My Favorite Lemony Garlic Dressing
Makes about 1 cup

Add to a pint-sized Mason jar:
           3/4 cup of your favorite, flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
            1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
            Zest of one lemon
            2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (whole grain or smooth are both fine)
            2 garlic cloves, microplaned or ground to a paste with a pinch of salt
            Salt and pepper to taste
Shake vigorously to combine. Store any unused dressing, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

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Crush, using a mortar and pestle or a zip-top bag and a rolling pin (wrap the bag in a kitchen towel and roll over it with the rolling pin):
           2 cinnamon sticks...