Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Head is Not Dead! My Iceberg Conversion and an Italian Blue Cheese Dressing by Cleo Coyle

First a tasty shout-out to our new Crime Writing Cooks! Lucy Burdette and Peg Cochran, welcome! 

We will be seeing their first posts very soon. In the meantime, three cheers to Lucy who is launching a brand new series today with her book An Appetite for Murder. Huzzah! ~ Cleo 

Now for my regularly 
scheduled blog post... 

The Head is Not Dead! 

For years I wouldn't touch iceberg. Why? Why this prejudice against a harmless little head of greens? Because where I grew up, nobody ever heard of arugula or radicchio. (Not in the 1970's, anyway.) 

Cleo Coyle, Iceberg
Convert, is author of
The Coffeehouse
At home, my Italian father grew green and red leaf lettuce in the summer months, but during the winter, we ate one kind of lettuce, the only kind found in local markets and on restaurant menus: iceberg. Sure, the dressings would change, but the dulling sameness of the salad set me off that particular variety for years. Until lately... 

Under the heading Everything Old is New Again (especially in a  New Year), I give you a classic "chop house" salad: a wedge of iceberg lettuce generously drizzled with a fresh, creamy blue cheese dressing. 

Yes, I know...iceberg offers less nutrition than other varieties, but in the winter, when I'm feeling particularly dehydrated, I find an iceberg wedge to be just the ticket. It's stupidly simple to prep, of course: cut the head into quarters. It's also hydrating, refreshing, satisfying, and stimulating. Yes, stimulating... 

"Wakey, wakey!" 
CRUNCH keeps you up!

According to foodie research, cold foods that crunch in your mouth (like apples, carrots, and iceberg lettuce) keep the mind alert. So, on top of hydration, iceberg lettuce is an alarm clock for that sluggish winter brain. 

Crunch with joy! 
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle’s Creamy 
Italian Blue Cheese Dressing 

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Gorgonzola is my favorite blue for this recipe (it's Italian, after all), but you can use Roquefort, Stilton, Danish, or your favorite blue. Or we can ask our blog's cheese expert, Avery Aames, for advice on her favorite blue cheese. :)

As for the other ingredients, I find the scallions bring a fresh flavor to the dressing, and the lemon juice offers the kind of bright zip that usually comes from vinegar. As for the anchovy (another Italian heritage addition), have no fear. The single anchovy will not make the dressing taste fishy. Instead, it will enrich the dressing with a delicious note of umami. To learn more about umami, one of the basic notes of flavor beyond sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, click here

Makes 1 cup 


4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon finely chopped scallions
6 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon sour cream*
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt 
1 anchovy, mashed (optional but I always add it!)

*Note for thinner dressing, stir in about 1 tablespoon of milk or buttermilk or add a bit more sour cream.

Directions: In a large bowl mix the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. You can leave the dressing thick or thin it out (as noted) by adding a bit more sour cream or about one tablespoon of whole milk or buttermilk (fresh buttermilk or light buttermilk is truly the best for flavor, IMO).

Left thick, this dressing can be tossed with leafy greens or used as a delicious dipping sauce for raw veggies or hot chicken wings. Made thinner, you can pour it over a wedge of iceberg, and...

Eat with joy
in 2012!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of  
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. I didn't realize that about crunchy foods! Thanks for the tip. :) I grew up eating iceberg on a daily basis, but I haven't had it for ages...I'm going to have to rediscover it!

  2. okay yum, I'm crazy about blue cheese dressing--even if it's on a wedge of iceberg:). Maybe add a few bacon bits too?

  3. Cleo, this might be my husband's favorite food of all time, and for all the reasons you stated. Great post. Love the recipe. Say cheese!


  4. This salad was how I learned to love Blue cheese!!! There was a steakhouse in the small town I grew up in called "Larry Paul's (clever as the owners were ...Larry and Paul!!!) My dad went there every Thursday after he played golf and if we were very lucky he took us along. I was a Daddy's gilr for a few years so I always ordered what he did...Porterhouse rare with sherry mushroom sauce, onion chips and ...the "house special" Blue Cheese wedge!!!

    ...and here I thought Les goofed when he picked up a head of iceberg at the market yesterday! Nope...tonight in lieu of the porterhouse (have you checked those prices lately!!) we are having grilled burgers and house special salad!!!

    Happy New Year, Cleo and all the MLK gang!


  5. We recently "rediscovered" how great iceberg is for certain salads--specifically with blue cheese dressing. Especially good with bacon crumbles. Sometimes old is best!

  6. Only this blog could make me salivate while considering a crunchy wedge of plain old boring iceberg lettuce with Gorgonzola dressing. Suddenly my taste buds are excited again! I recently discovered what you mean about anchovies - there is magic in a single anchovy. I'm looking forward to conjuring a little of it.

  7. Reply to...

    @Elizabeth/Riley - Yes! The crunching trick is a good alternative to caffeine, lol.

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Reply to...

    @Lucy - Oh, absolutely, bacon bits would be an excellent topping for this salad. Thanks for dropping by today and continued congrats to you on the launch of your new series. Woot!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Reply to...

    @Avery - I was thinking of you as I put this post together. Saying cheese for sure! And you have a new book coming out in just one more month, too. Cheers and Happy New Year!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Reply to...

    @Nanc - Sweet thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory with all of us. I can just see your dad finishing off his blue cheese drenched wedge and sharpening his knife to dig into his thick, juicy porterhouse. Now that's eating with joy! (And, yes, now that the holidays are over, we've moved on to burgers, too!)

    Warmest wishes to you and your family for a bright shining New Year!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. Reply to...

    @Peg - Well said! Many times the old way is the best way. Thanks for dropping by today and a warm welcome to you. We're all looking forward to your upcoming posts.

    Happy New Year!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  12. @Laine (of Laineshots) - "There is magic in a single anchovy..." Beautifully put. Couldn't agree more. A little scary on its own but mix that little salty fish with complementary ingredients and you've got a symphony of flavor (so to speak :)).

    Thanks for dropping by today, Laine. It's always a pleasure to see you in our Kitchen!

    Happy New Year!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. Isn't it funny that we so willingly dropped iceberg lettuce when we were told to eat other types? I love iceberg, too. Nothing else has that crunch!

    ~ Krista

  14. Late to the party but I was busy the past few days cleaning house, taking down Xmas and doing laundry.

    Funny, dh & I were just a few minutes ago (while watching a cooking show) discussing the high price of different types of lettuce, and that we should grow our own again, esp. if he gets a greenhouse built. We both agreed that nothing still beats the crunch of iceberg in a good chopped salad and we can't do without it in regular TexMex tacos!

    Love any kind of blue cheese, yum! Thanks, Cleo!
    Happy New Year, All!

    And welcome Lucy and Peg! I look forward to enjoying your posts!