For Better Wedge Salads, Upgrade Your Lettuce

Photo: Claire Lower

The wedge salad is often dismissed as nothing more than a vehicle for blue cheese and crispy bits of cured pork. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think a delivery system for cheese and bacon is what lettuce should strive to be, but you can make your wedge just a touch more nutritious (and flavorful) by swapping out the iceberg for something with more character.

There are, of course, rules. Swapping out iceberg for something like spinach or arugula is not the move, my friends. Iceberg’s greatest feature lies in its cool and crisp texture, and you need that crunch, especially if you’re a bit heavy handed with the blue cheese. You want something with some structure, something that can ideally be cut into a wedge.

Radicchio and treviso (which is basically a kinder, gentler radicchio) are my favourites for this. In addition to being completely wedge-able, the bitter flavour of the purple leaves gives the salad even more dimension and diversity in the flavour department. This keeps your palate from becoming saturated with salt and fat, which means you can demolish an entire wedge of plant matter with ease (this is healthy).

If those two are a little two bitter, a halved or quartered head of romaine will also work. If you want to get really crazy, you could grill the romaine. For a tiny take on the wedge, consider cutting heads of endive in two, or breaking them into little leaves and piling the wedge toppings into their naturally occurring scoops, creating perfectly harmonious bites. And, if you grow tired of leaves, you can always dump the toppings on a pile of fries. (Broil the blue cheese on top, then sprinkle with bacon, fried onions, green onions, and drizzle with blue cheese dressing.) It’s not going to be more nutritious than iceberg, but it will taste very, very good.


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