You have many choices when it comes to lettuce at the local grocery store and the farmer’s market. Iceberg seems to have been relegated to second-class status in some circles, but should not hold that position for you and me.
Iceberg is the lettuce my mom used when I was growing up and along with Romaine, it is still at the top of my list.
The main reasons I continue to use it regularly are: it is the least expensive, it stays very crisp when handled properly; it contains a lot of water which is good for you; and, it has a mild flavor, which keeps it from overwhelming other ingredients in your dishes.
Yes, it does have fewer nutrients than some of your darker green lettuces; but, since it is often just a base for nutrient-rich dishes, that should not be a huge concern. Also, you can always mix in a little Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce for color and a nutrition bump if you choose.
Preparing Iceberg Lettuce
Cleaning and coring iceberg lettuce is quick and easy.
To remove the core, hold the head of lettuce, core side down and gently, but firmly hit the bottom of the head on the counter. The core should break apart from the rest of the head so you can pull it out quite easily. Rinse the head thoroughly with cold water. Also be sure to rinse all the crevices. Wrap in a damp paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to use. This helps keep it fresh and crisp for two or three days.
Below are some of my favorite ways to use Iceberg lettuce:
Perfect Crunchy Freshness on Burgers and Tacos
For me, a nice crispy leaf of iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato and thinly sliced raw onion makes a hamburger complete. Iceberg lettuce gives the burger extra texture, color and flavor. Just before the burgers have finished cooking, I tear off nice-sized leaves from the head stored in the frig and dab them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture so the buns do not get soggy. Perfect!
When serving homemade tacos (one of my family’s favorites), I cut the crispy head of lettuce in half. I cut one of the halves into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. I then cut the slices in half – and in half again. This creates perfect tiny strips for tacos. (I learned this from a wonderful Mexican cook in my home town years ago.) The lettuce adds a crunchy, fresh crispness to any taco.
Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad
This a classic traditional steak-house salad and always delicious when the lettuce wedge is fresh and crisp. It is usually served with a quality creamy Roquefort or Blue Cheese dressing – with or without additional toppings depending on the steak house, or personal preference. It is the perfect side dish for a good steak and potatoes dinner.
Traditional Tossed Salads
Of course, anytime you mention a dinner salad, Iceberg lettuce comes to mind. With fresh veggies, it makes a light, healthy first course or side dish for almost any meal.
I always chop my vegetables first – using a combination of any or all of the following: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, avocados, and cucumbers. I place them in a bowl and add a little vinegar and oil-based salad dressing to add flavor.
Then, I remove my crisp head of lettuce from the refrigerator and tear into bite-sized pieces, placing the lettuce on top of the marinating veggies (but do not toss). If not serving immediately, I cover the lettuce with a slightly damp paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to toss and serve.
When the time is right, I serve in individual bowls with dressings on the side; plus, croutons, bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, grated cheese, or other family favorites.
Main Dish Salads
The above traditional salad can also be used as an entrée – a great way to serve a low calorie, highly nutritious meal for lunch or dinner. I simply add a little more lettuce – usually a darker green type for color – and some grilled chicken or steak, cut into strips, and placed on top.
When serving guests, I put all the extra toppings in small serving bowls so they can create their own finished salad. To keep the calories down and to savor the wonderful mix of flavors, I typically eat mine with a light vinaigrette or balsamic dressing
Substitution for Bread
Try this healthy, tasty twist for sandwiches. Use two large crispy leaves instead of bread for your next sandwich. Place your favorite sandwich meat or sliced leftover roast chicken or turkey, a slice of cheese, a slice of tomato, strips of raw onion, and a little mayo between two iceberg lettuce leaves for a tasty, crunchy and healthy meal. Tuna salad also tastes great when served between two crisp leaves.
You can either serve the “sandwich” open-faced using a leaf or two of crispy iceberg lettuce as the base and enjoy with a fork. Or – create your layers and do a roll-up.
Base, Garnish, or Decoration
One or two crispy Iceberg lettuce leaves make the perfect decorative base under any meat or rice dish. Since it is so inexpensive, it is great to use decoratively for almost any meal.
For example: place it under a scoop of chicken, tuna, or egg salad for a healthy lunch; or, place it under a bed of couscous or seasoned brown rice as a side dish.
This is only a tip of the “iceberg” (LOL). The next time you are shopping pick up a head of this wonderful lettuce and let your creativity take flight.