“Iceberg would smile if it could,” opined the cookbook author Marion Cunningham about her favorite lettuce. “It is sturdy but has a surprisingly delicate flavor. Unlike some of the frail field lettuces that wilt, swoon, and have the vapors ready, iceberg is a stalwart,” she wrote. It is awfully popular to knock iceberg lettuce in this era of the exaltation of dark leafy greens. Yes, I am aware that those other lettuces are full of antioxidants and health benefits that iceberg lettuce lacks. Oh, if only I had a buck for every time I’ve heard someone mention a time in American food history “when all we had was iceberg lettuce,” as a way to signify how far we’ve come as a nation of foodies. What a shame. Don’t believe me? Buy a head and see if it doesn’t remind you of what “crunchy” is supposed to mean. Here are five excellent uses for iceberg lettuce.
1. Taco night: Shredded iceberg lettuce adds texture to any kind of taco and is a good way to get some fiber into your kids. (Try these carnitas tacos, these fish tacos, and this taco salad.) You can also use it to garnish these addictive potato nachos.
2. The Iceberg Wedge: Reacquaint yourself with the classic appetizer of a wedge of iceberg drizzled with blue cheese dressing (for best results, use Maytag blue). Even better with chopped bacon bits sprinkled on it.
3. Make yourself an honest-to-god club sandwich. (In general, there is probably no sandwich that wouldn’t benefit from a layer of iceberg.)
4. Substitute two sturdy slices of it for the bread in any sandwich you like. It can even be an excellent burger bun. And of course you can use it as a wrap, too, for just about any sandwich; try it with this chipotle chicken salad.
6. Use the large pieces as cups told hold cut-up pieces of fresh fruit (don’t forget the tropical parasol for extra fun; kids are much more likely to eat something healthy when they get to stab it with something cool).
7. Thinly-sliced strips of iceberg lettuce are an ingredient in several classic Chinese stir-fry recipes, but you can toss it into your weeknight stir-fried dishes, too; try it in this easy eggplant stir fry or this chicken-snow pea version.
8. Have you ever heard of lettuce soup? It’s often made with greens like watercress, but you can make it with iceberg, too; the key is to use really good chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, some slivers of salty ham, and a poached egg.
10. Pickle it! Think about it: Fermented foods are great for you; sauerkraut is really just pickled cabbage. Why not pickle some iceberg, too?