kale salad with zesty cumin dressing & sunflower seed clusters

This salad was inspired by a salad I had in Grand Rapids almost two years ago while I was in town for a wedding. The restaurant, Terra GR, has an amazing menu full of nourishing, seasonal eats and I only wish that I lived closer (or that Terra would move to Florida…) so I could eat there again!

While the original salad uses lentils as the main protein source, I actually prefer steamed edamame, but you can use whatever beans or legumes you have on hand. I think white beans would work really well too because they’re mild enough to let the real star of the show shine – the cumin dressing! The rice vinegar and cumin make this dressing very tangy, which I love, but if you prefer a more mellow dressing you can up the amount of tahini or reduce the amount of vinegar used by a tablespoon or two and use water instead. I like to thinly slice the red onion first, so I can let it sit in the dressing while I prep the rest of the ingredients, and doing this lets the onions pickle slightly in the vinegar and softens them a little too.

This recipe is extremely adaptable, and you can really use it as a template to build a fantastic kale salad. During the summer months I’ll use zucchini and yellow squash instead of butternut, and I’m sure shredded carrots, radishes and other vegetables would be lovely too. Here I used a mix of massaged kale along with some mixed baby greens, but this would also work well with spinach or a fresh spring mix.

Kale Salad with Zesty Cumin Dressing & Sunflower Seed Clusters

Serves 2 as a meal-sized salad, up to 4 as a side
inspired by Terra GR 

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups greens of your choice (I liked 1/2 kale and 1/2 mixed greens), chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup steamed, shelled edamame (cooked lentils or white beans would also work)
1 cup roasted butternut squash or other chopped vegetable such as zucchini

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, diced (optional)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Sunflower Seed Clusters
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch of salt & pepper
1/4 tsp coconut aminos (tamari or soy sauce would also work)

Make the dressing by combining all of the dressing ingredients in a jar or shaker bottle. Add the thinly sliced red onion to the jar and set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the sunflower seeds with the cumin, salt, and pepper. When the seeds start to turn a golden color – about 2-3 minutes, add the coconut aminos, stir everything once and turn off the heat. They should clump together into small clusters as they cool.

If using kale, massage the kale with a tablespoon or two of the dressing in a large salad bowl until it has wilted and turned dark green. Add the other greens and toss to combine. Add the quinoa, edamame, chopped vegetables, remaining dressing and red onion, and toss well to combine. Top with the cooled sunflower seed clusters & serve.

Some other vegetables that would be really great here : shredded carrots, sliced radishes, avocado!, chopped celery… the list goes on.