By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Iceberg lettuce has been a real wedge issue for some time, foodies pronouncing it void of flavor and lacking in sophistication, while its cool, mild crunch keep it a popular choice among the American populace. I say iceberg — the most abundant lettuce in the crisphead family — has its place and season, just as much as arugula and frisée. It may not be as nutrient-dense as spinach or red leaf, but when I go to grab a head of it, I can rely on iceberg above all to be its consistent crunchy self. It’s rarely wilted or seeming plucked from its bed too early, like those out-of-season spring mixes. And while I don’t go to iceberg lettuce seeking the avant-garde, this cool companion, despite all the talk against it, is never bitter.
Here’s a retro recipe for iceberg lovers to revel in: the classic wedge salad. Simply sliced into pieces and slathered with creamy blue cheese dressing, it’s a steakhouse staple and a great winter salad course. Ramp up the garnishes to include diced avocado and hard cooked egg, maybe some croutons, and it can even be a whole meal. Served all stacked up, it shows off what leaf lettuces just can’t do, earning iceberg’s place on any foodie’s plate and thereby proving that this is the only sort of wedge that need ever come between salad lovers of all sorts.
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
1 small garlic clove, minced
5 tablespoons buttermilk
5 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 small head iceberg lettuce
Juice from ½ lemon
4-6 ounces bacon
Thinly sliced red onion, optional
Make the dressing: Place the blue cheese, minced garlic and buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl and, using a fork, mash them into a paste. (The texture will resemble that of cottage cheese.) Stir in the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate up to four days.
For the salad: Cook the bacon in a frying pan or in the oven until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When cool, crumble into small pieces.
Prepare the lettuce by striking it, stem side down, onto a clean counter and removing the core. Remove the outer leaves, if wilted. Slice the remaining head into 4-6 wedges. Sprinkle the sides of the lettuce wedges with lemon juice. Place each wedge onto a serving plate, spoon some of the dressing over and top with crumbled bacon and red onion as desired.