Little black (salad) dress(ing)

Little black (salad) dress(ing)

Little black (salad) dress(ing)

My big brother first taught me how to make a version of this dressing years ago. Since then, it's become my little black dress of salad dressings: quick to pull together, goes with everything, easy to alter or accessorize. My brother is a purist and would tell you that you must make it exactly the same, every time, with only NON-extra virgin olive oil. But siblings tend to disagree and I'm more prone to mixing and matching (and not going out to the store if I don't have to). I think the dressing lends itself well to variation and interpretation. Try playing with the kinds of vinegar, oil, mustard, and sweetener. See what you have on hand and think about what kind of salad you're dressing.

As a rule of thumb, remember 1 part vinegar: 3-4 parts oil. The key to this deceptively simple dressing is to use good quality oil and vinegar and to taste as you go to get just the right balance. While this dressing can handle most salads and toppings, it's best on a simple salad of lovely leafy greens at the end of a meal.


  • 1 TB vinegar (e.g., red wine, champagne, white balsamic, apple cider)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  •  Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Drizzle of honey
  • 3-4 TB olive oil


  • Whisk vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey, salt, and  pepper in a small bowl or your empty salad bowl.
  • Just before dressing your salad, whisk in olive oil.
  • Adjust the balance of vinegar/oil and seasoning as needed.
  • Taste a leaf once you've dressed your salad and adjust again if needed. (You can't really tell what a salad dressing will taste like in action until you've tasted in on the salad you're dressing.)

Quick trick: To save a little time (and dishwashing), skip the bowl and whisk, and add all of the ingredients to a small mason jar or bottle. Just shake it up, and you’re good to go.

Tip: Bulk up on dressing and store it in the fridge; you’ll save time and money and won't be tempted to reach for the store-bought stuff. Vinaigrette keeps for about a week in the fridge.


  • Add minced shallot or garlic to the vinegar and let steep for 15 minutes or so before you whisk in the oil.
  • Substitute the white balsamic vinegar for red wine, champagne, sherry, rice, cider or whatever other vinegar you have on hand.
  • For a lemony vinaigrette, skip the vinegar and use more lemon juice.
  • Use different kinds of mustard or no mustard at all.
  • Try different sweeteners like agave or maple syrup, or skip the sweetener.
  • Substitute all or part of the olive oil for other kinds of oil like nut or grape seed.
  • Whisk dried herbs or spices with the vinegar, or stir in fresh herbs at the end.