An Iceberg Tip

By Ben Mims

Published on August 10, 2009

Like many vegetables, iceberg lettuce (see The Ice Queen) begins to lose its moisture—and with it the crispness that is its cardinal appeal—the moment it is pulled from the ground. Our testing of a number of recipes calling for iceberg lettuce prompted us to wonder whether there was a way to turn back the clock and restore moisture that the lettuce may have lost during shipping or while sitting in the fridge. It seems there's a tried-and-true method for doing just that: keeping the leaves immersed in a bowl of ice water for ten minutes or so. According to the food scientist Harold McGee, submerging the lettuce causes its cells to become engorged and rigid; the low temperature stiffens the cell walls and intensifies the snap that occurs when you bite into the leaf. The immersion method worked so well that we tried it with other raw vegetables, too, including the chiles and cucumbers in the Iceberg Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. The result was a salad as crisp and fresh as springtime itself.

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