A Cutting Edge Iceberg Wedge Salad

Aren’t we foodies a funny bunch?

It wasn’t that long ago when baby field greens first came into our sightline. What a revelation they were to people like us. So tiny. So delicate. Each leaf like a small gift.

With their discovery the mesclun salad was born and it stormed our palates. It made all the other types of lettuce seem brutish. But now I look at those emaciated, limp little leaves and I find myself thinking. Is that all there is?

Sure, these tasty little greens were exciting when they were new. They were fairly uncommon and often tough to find too far from the fields from which they were harvested. That’s because they were difficult to store & transport.

We loved them, and we let them take over our salad plates. Not just because they were new, but also because by their very nature they had to be eaten at their freshest and most flavorful.

iceberg lettuceBut now, thanks to new fangled processing methods these greens can be shipped in special bags in which the oxygen has been removed and replaced with nitrogen. This unnatural environment helps retain their fresh green color. But that’s about all that remains fresh. Because I have noticed the taste has deteriorated. Sure the process has made these mixes available at the supermarket, though it often consists of inferior greens mixed with radicchio, which is strictly added for color, and does not belong anywhere near delicate flavored baby field greens.

So what are we foodies to do until the next leafy green food fad comes along?

I say, let’s look backwards! Today I am bringing you a retro-style Iceberg Wedge Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Dressing.

That’s right. I said Iceberg.

lettuce sales chartRemember Iceberg lettuce? It was the lettuce of your childhood: A big, round ball wrapped in cellophane, ready to be torn apart to adorn a juicy burger, or sliced thin and snuggled inside crunchy tacos, or best yet, smothered under a thick and creamy salad dressing.

In truth iceberg never really went away. It remains the nation’s dominant lettuce, but we foodies have given it the cold shoulder lately. In 2006, 174,600 acres of iceberg lettuce were harvested in the United States, down from 198,500 acres in 1998. That’s our fault. Yours and mine.

Iceberg lettuce, formerly known as Crisphead lettuce, got its “new” name from the ice-filled train cars in which it was shipped from California to the rest of the lettuce-deprived world in the 1930s. At that time, Iceberg was the only variety of lettuce hearty enough to survive the trip without being damaged by the ice in which it was packed.

The poor quality mesclun that has dominated my life lately has made a convert out of me. Because I’ve found myself making salads made with Iceberg lettuce lately. It’s no longer my nemesis… I have given it a mental makeover. I have even convinced myself I have I always loved it. “We are at war with Eurasia and we have always been at war with Eurasia.” (Orwell 1984) GREG

bruce church lettuce adIceberg Wedge Salad with Creamy Buttermilk Dressing
serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c mayonaisse
  • 1/4 c shallots, minced
  • 3 T chives, minced
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 t celery salt
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, core trimmed but left mostly intact
  • 1 c cherry tomtoes, some whole some halved according to size
  •  salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonaisse, shallots, chives, lemon juice, celery salt, and a little salt and pepper in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Cut lettuce lengthwise into quarters. Transfer a wedge to each of 4 plates. Drizzle each wedge with some dressing, and garnish with tomatoes and additional cracked black pepper.