No matter the flavor, all you need to memorize is this simple ratio.
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Grilled Steak Salad with Green Tomato Vinaigrette
Credit: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

For years, I depended on getting my vinaigrettes from the grocery store in a bottle. There's no shame in that method—having it handy in the fridge encouraged me to eat more salads even when I wasn't feeling up to making all that much. Vinaigrette was one of those cooking mental hurdles I had to get over, like lining a pan in parchment paper when I'm making a cake. Yes, it's easy, but I found it tedious, and I often just skipped it.

But I realized, after a while, that I could just as easily make a vinaigrette, keep it in a squeezy bottle in the fridge, and break it out whenever I needed it. Making a vinaigrette is really pretty easy, as long as you remember one crucial ratio: one part vinegar to three to five parts oil. Put the vinegar in a bowl with a little bit of Dijon mustard—about a teaspoon—plus some salt and pepper, and then whisk in the oil slowly. Taste it, season it to your liking, and that's it. You're done. I have mine in a squeeze bottle like this one, and just shake it up before I use it, because the oil and vinegar will separate.

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If you have fresh herbs on hand, you can add those at the end. The vinegar can by anything you have kicking around—white wine, red wine, balsamic, rice, or champagne. Just avoid white distilled vinegar, and you should be fine. You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar too, for something really light that works beautifully with summer vegetables. You can add fresh garlic or shallot to the vinaigrette to complement whatever else you have going on. You could add miso for an umami, salty note like in this ginger beef salad with miso vinaigrette or capers and a bit of sugar to complement a steak salad, like in this recipe. The riffs on that simple ratio are endless. But as long as you make sure to keep the mixture to one part acid to three to five parts oil—depending on how sharp you want your vinaigrette—you'll be dressing salads all day without ever worrying about running out of premade dressing.