How to Clean Iceberg Lettuce for Lettuce Wraps

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Iceberg lettuce has a mild flavor and crisp, refreshing texture that complements many foods, making it a suitable choice for a lettuce wrap. Lettuce wraps are like a sandwich, but without the bread. Properly separating and washing the leaves before assembling the wraps doesn't just ensure they are clean, it also prevents the leaves from tearing into unusable pieces.

The Whole Leaf

  • Removing the core before separating the leaves or washing the lettuce prevents tearing and breakage, so you end up with more whole leaves suitable for wrapping. Whacking the stem end of the lettuce down hard on the counter breaks it free of the leaves so you can slide it out, leaving nothing but the lettuce leaves behind. If whacking doesn't work, insert the tip of a knife into the bottom of the head of lettuce and cut out the core. Cut off the bottom 1 to 2 inches of the the head, and then gently shake apart the head so the leaves separate without tearing.

A Quick Bath

  • It's easier to wash the leaves once they're separated from the head. Fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and submerge the iceberg leaves. Rinse them in the water for about 30 seconds to dislodge any grit. Dry leaves work best for wraps, so drain them completely in a colander after washing, and then absorb any moisture left behind with a paper towel. Don't use a salad spinner. Although these dry leaves quickly, they will also tear and break the leaves, making them unusable for wraps.

Only the Best

  • The best leaves for a wrap are tender enough to wrap around the filling without breaking, but they aren't wilted or broken. The outer leaves from the iceberg head usually work best, while the smaller, crisper inner leaves are better suited for using as cups. Lettuce cups are similar to wraps, except the filling sits on top the leaf, similar to an open-faced sandwich. Separate the leaves into stacks for use as wraps or cups. Use any remaining leaves for a salad.

It's a Wrap

  • Soggy fillings make the lettuce limp, so thick fillings work best. Cream cheese, soft cheeses, thick mayonnaise and mustard are suitable condiments, depending on the filling. You can use deli meats and cheese, chicken or tuna salad, or mixed vegetables raw or sauteed. If the iceberg lettuce leaves are exceptionally crisp, a warm filling makes them softer so they are easier to wrap. Taco or fajita filling, an Asian-inspired chicken or shrimp and vegetable medley, or meatballs in sauce are just a few ideas for a warm wrap. Coat the leaves with the condiment, add the filling, and then fold in the ends of the leaf. Roll the lettuce up like a cigar and serve. Use a toothpick to hold the wrap together if it doesn't stay rolled on its own.

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