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Tip for the iceberg

Like many hounds, I grew up when salad was synonymous with iceberg lettuce, and now prefer leaf, romaine, and the other "better" lettuces. But yesterday, big heads of iceberg were 40 cents less than the leaf lettuces, so this week, iceberg it is. This prompts me to mention the Frugal Gourmet's tip on coring, for those of you who are too young to have watched his shows. Hold the head in both hands, core side down, and give it one solid bash onto the counter. Turn it over, twist the core, and it pops right out, making it easier to remove leaf by leaf, or break into sections.

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  1. Yep. The Froog was absolutely right about that. It's a very good tip.

    And in defense of the iceberg, there are times when I prefer the cool crunch and the relative blandness of an iceberg salad, to the more flavorful but less textural leaf lettuces. And cream dressings (which I often favor) cry out for good iceberg.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan

      Love iceberg! I am making a wedge salad for a dinner party tomorrow night!

      1. re: roux42

        ditto,, not only is it a nice presentation with chopped tomatoes, bacon pieces, etc. - I very often order this out as well. I love the crisp clean taste of ice burg

      2. re: Perilagu Khan

        James Beard once wrote that if iceberg lettuce were difficult to grow, hard to ship, and really expensive, it would be the favorite of gourmets everywhere. I think - okay, I KNOW - he was being excessively cynical, but it tickled me anyway. I must say I've always liked it. And yes, that coring trick used to be known to just about everyone back when "lettuce" meant either iceberg or leaf...

        1. re: Will Owen

          Beard had a gift for puncturing pretense. His type rarely come along these days and they are sorely missed.

      3. Totally on the money, and that's how my mom always did it, a big rap on the counter before coring.

        I am in the same boat as you, greyg., but very recently I have noticed I feel the iceberg lettuce is totally different tasting than when I grew up. It had no taste back then, mainly of water & crunch. But that was on the east coast, and now that I am on the west coast, I have renewed trying the iceberg, since it is so cheap sometimes, and find it to be incredibly sweet and delicious! I can only think that the 3000 mile journey from where it grows, in the great Central Valley of CA, killed it's flavor. Now I am about 200+ miles from where it grows. And I find the flavor refreshing and wonderful, and am enjoying it all over again.

        1. That's actually one reason I might use iceberg.;-) I like fresh iceberg when it's cold and it's hot out and actually like it stir fried. My mom used to do it and it was odd at first bite but there's something about it that's addicting.

          1. Never knew that's how the Frugal Gourmet did it, but I never considered there was any other way. It's the way my mom always did it, and it's so easy I never considered an alternative. Do people sometimes cut out the core like cabbage?

            I really love iceberg. I know it has virtually no nutritional value, but it's so refreshing and crunchy.

            5 Replies
            1. re: MrsCheese

              My mother pulled leaves off one by one. I don't know if it had never occurred to her to cut out the core, or if she didn't do that because of the way a knife causes the remaining lettuce to discolor around the edges. So I did it her way until I learned to thwonk it onto the counter.

              1. re: greygarious

                I love iceberg lettuce. However, not when it's leaves are all separated, but when it's in a wedge. I could see why people would hate iceberg if they associated it with just the leaves cut or torn up and put in a pile.

                When I buy it (and I do often), I feel around the entire pile and squeeze every one looking for the firmest one there. If they are soft, I pass on them. I love a nice, firm, solid head of iceberg cut into wedges or chunks.

              2. re: MrsCheese

                For some reason bashing the core doesn't work for me - bad technique I suppose. So I always cut the core out like cabbage. Yes, the edges get a bit rusty over time but I just trim the edges off as I use the leaves. FWIW, after removing the core, fill the lettuce with water by holding the core side under the tap, gently forcing the tightly packed leaves apart a bit to allow water to enter. Then drain it, core-side down, in a colander for half an hour or so before storing in a plastic produce bag in the crisper, with a folded-p paper towel under the core to absorb remaining water. Change the paper towel the next day, and you'll find the lettuce keeps for at least two weeks, staying wonderfully crispy and fresh.

                1. re: janniecooks

                  Thanks for that one, jannie - I will give the head a drink, even though I cored it yesterday.

                  1. re: janniecooks

                    I always do that as well, and it does keep much better than when I'm in a rush and don't.

                2. I grew up eating chunks of iceberg as snacks - never any dressing, just plain, crunchy iceberg. I still prefer an iceberg salad to this day (now with an Italian viniagrette) rather than all those dark "fancy" greens found in most salads these days. To me there is nothing better than an iceberg salad with tomatoes, carrot shavings, radishes, really good green olives, red onions and red cabbage with an Italian viniagrette......mmmmm yummy.

                  1. I remember wedges of iceberg at a favorite lunch place (40 years ago!) with a dressing made with mayo and diced/grated hard boiled egg. It was so delicious! I might try to recreate that one.

                    1. I think the structure of iceberg stands up to some of the heavier dressings-wedge/blue cheese,BLT salad with either ranch or mayo type dressing or I like it when the salad is going to marinade for a few minutes. I do think it needs to be in wedges or chunks.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: wekick

                        i love a wedge salad and like iceberg shredded in sandwiches just fine.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Now that you mention shredded iceberg....a pizza/sub place that I like has a tuna salad that, I think, is just tuna, mayo, and shredded lettuce. It doesn't sound good, but it is. I normally make tuna salad with onion, celery, relish, mayo, and Old Bay, so it is quite different from mine, but I like it nearly as well.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Greygarious--to me, a tuna sandwich IS just tuna, mayo, a couple lettuce leaves.

                            That's a different animal from a tuna *salad* sandwich! Both welcome on my plate.

                      2. ANY lettuce is good with chicken broth, chopped onion and some curry powder in lettuce soup. Iceberg keeps its crunch much better than others in hot liquid.

                        1. My mom taught me this method of de-coring the lettuce when I was growing up. Its still one of my favorite and most satisfying vegetable prep activities.

                          1. My mom did the bash and core thing too - and had a special Tupperware "head lettuce" (I never heard it called iceberg in my part of Canada, there was head lettuce and leaf lettuce in the spring, that was it) keeper that kept it in good shape for a good long time. Do they still make those, I wonder?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: buttertart

                              I don't think they do, BT, but suppose it may be worth looking up on the world wide web, my Mom had one too and it worked great.

                            2. I've always cored my lettuce this way. But last weekend, my daughter told me that if you shred lettuce with a plastic knife, it does not brown as it does with a standard knife. Now I was only there for a couple of days, but I didn't notice anything browning. Has anyone else heard that or tried that? It would be interesting to know if this is just another tale or if my daughter taught me something new!!!!!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: boyzoma

                                She's correct. I'm sure Williams-Sonoma will gladly sell you one for $53.99. ;-)

                                Actually, come to think of it, I've seen them in WalMart or my grocery store.

                                1. re: shanagain

                                  Shanagain/Phurstluv - you are both so funny. Actually my daughter IS a manager at WAL*MART and guess where she buys her plastic???? Well - who says you can't teach an old dog a new trick! I guess if I keep passing enough recipes her way, she will upload her wisdom to me :-)

                                  PL: Good question on porcelain. I don't watch infomercials as a norm, but may have to check them out! ;-)

                                2. re: boyzoma

                                  Oh yea, it's the metal / iron in the blade that reacts with the lettuce. I wonder if you can use a porcelain knife, if it's the same as a plastic one....anyone try it? Got those infomercial knives on hand??