Can there be a more characterless salad ingredient than iceberg lettuce? Granted it is nicely crisp and it adds a certain amount of crunch, but it is really not very exciting. I think much of the appeal, for caterers, at least, is that it is inexpensive and fairly long-lasting so is unlikely to go to waste.
As keen as I am on my local fruit and vegetable co-op, I do wish that during the summer they would not include this incredibly boring lettuce ever week. My usual solution is to braise it, the cooking renders the dull iceberg delicious – buttery, nutty and subtly bitter. The other day I found one of my university notebooks – with a suitably frugal recipe for a lettuce & chickpea soup, which, combined with the braised iceberg led to a recipe for a fat-free lettuce and pea soup.
On a hot day I do not want to turn the oven on or use the hob, so I made this soup in my Vitamix, which, due to the friction from the speeding blades will heat as it blends. It really is as easy as bung it all in and go, but this would also be quick to make in a pan on the stove into whizzing soup with a stick blender once cooked.
I generally use Japanese ingredients from Clearspring, their range is largely organic, but more importantly is made by artisan producers using centuries old traditional methods. If you do not have miso, then leave it out and add a little more soy sauce or tamari.
If you are following 5:2 diet or intermittent fasting, this would make an excellent lunch, with only 15 calories per 100g of lettuce you could probably consume gallons of this, although do read the label of your soy sauce as some brands are laden with sugar! If the slight, but not unpleasant, bitterness bothers you, I recommend a drizzle of oil to counteract it.
Recipe: Fat Free Lettuce & Pea Soup
1 iceberg lettuce – or other lettuce – roughly chopped
2 spring onions
1 small glass vegetable stock
1 tbs soy sauce or tamari
1 dsp sweet white miso
1/2 cup peas – I used frozen petit pois – defrosted and warmed
Pepper & Salt to taste
Fresh herbs and chilli flake for garnish
Place all the ingredients apart from the peas into the Vitamix and blend at high speed for about 5 minutes until steaming hot. Check the seasoning. Add the peas (reserving a few for garnish) and blend for a few more seconds so they retain some texture.
Serve immediately garnishing with the reserved peas, chopped fresh herbs and a sprinkling of chilli flake.