I remember my first salads….iceberg salad with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, a thick layer of ranch dressing (Kraft, I’m sure), probably a sprinkling of imitation bacon bits. I was pretty young, ten or so, and it seemed like a big deal to everyone at that point in time that I liked salads, because everyone knows that kids don’t like salad (that was sarcasm). As I got older, something shifted. I definitely stopped eating less dressing (probably in an attempt to cut calories). I still love ranch dressing, but I make my own these days, and I give equal time to vinaigrettes. I added way more toppings, then somewhere along the line I decided that I would much rather eat baby lettuces or spinach or arugula or, if I needed some crunch, romaine. I forsook iceberg.
That was silly, though, and you know it. People treat iceberg lettuce like a pariah. It ranks in the kitsch category with Velveeta and Twinkies and plastic-wrapped American cheese singles. And that is silly, because iceberg lettuce is a vegetable. Perhaps our approach is kitschy (ahem, aforementioned slick of Kraft dressing, imitation bacon bits, and I’m pretty sure at some point I probably ripped up those plastic-wrapped cheese singles and ate them on a salad), but iceberg lettuce is not. Yes, other types of lettuce have more nutrients. Iceberg is the least expensive variety at the grocery store, and it comes wrapped in plastic. It’s pretty benign in flavor. I don’t buy it often, but here’s something that steakhouses have known all along: when you add the right things to iceberg lettuce, things like real bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and a creamy, herby, buttermilk dressing, iceberg lettuce is elevated to a whole new level, one that I like to think of as “salad nirvana”.
Usually, this salad comes in wedge form, but in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perelman points out that this is a pretty unwieldy salad format….the dressing runs down the side, the bacon and cheese end up mostly on the plate, and there’s inevitably going to be a bite that doesn’t have dressing on it. And no one wants that. The solution? Iceberg salad stacks.
So how do you make iceberg salad stacks? Cut the lettuce into discs instead of wedges, or half-discs, which is what I did here. If buttermilk dressing is a great idea, green goddess dressing is a fabulous idea (though I only used half of the avocado because I needed to save the other half for some nachos I was making) and plays well with blue cheese crumbles. I would usually buy the blue cheese in a wedge, but there were no wedges at my grocery store (they were sold out) so you do what you have to do. By the way, if you hate blue cheese, feta would be a suitable substitute, though the flavor obviously won’t be as strong, and a good, extra-sharp cheddar would be good here too.
These iceberg salad stacks are a great take on the classic wedge salad!
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Yield: 4 servings
This recipe is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook .
10 minPrep Time:
10 minTotal Time:
- 1 head iceberg lettuce (cored, outer leaves removed)
- 1/2 cup green goddess dressing (recipe follows)
- 2 stalks celery (washed and finely diced)
- 4-6 strips cooked bacon (crumbled or chopped with a knife)
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (to achieve the thickness you prefer)
- 1 avocado (seeded and scooped)
- 1 green onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Make the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. I don't chop anything because my blender will do it for me, but if your blender or processor doesn't always get things smooth you may want to pre-chop the green onion, garlic, and parsley. Blend at high speed until desired texture is achieved. I start with the smallest amount of buttermilk and add more if necessary. Adjust seasonings. Scrape into a storage container (I use a Mason jar) and refrigerate. It will keep for 3-4 days, though a brownish liquid will start to accumulate from the oxidation of the avocado. This is normal; just stir it back in.
- To make the salads: Cut the lettuce into four wedges, then cut each wedge into 2-3 slices from top to bottom. Place the slices on four plates, staggering the wedges so that they lie on top of each other but not all the way.
- Drizzle each plate of lettuce slices with one to two tablespoons of green goddess dressing, being sure to lift each slice so that each piece gets plenty of dressing.
- Sprinkle each salad with 1/4 of the chopped celery, bacon, and blue cheese. Serve immediately.
Deb uses radishes, finely minced onions, and chopped chives in her recipe. I would have happily used radishes, but I couldn't find them in my grocery store. My chive plant is looking sad. And you know how I feel about raw onion...but if you want to add any of these things, by all means, feel free! I only used half of the avocado in my green goddess dressing for this recipe, but that was just because I wanted to save the other half for nachos. You can add as much as you want!