Massaged Broccoli Rabe Salad with Sunflower Seeds & Cranberries

I have a tale to tell you. I’m surprised I haven’t already told you. I traveled to Green Dirt Farm in Weston, Missouri, a few Fridays ago. On my drive there, the sky turned ominously dark, and I knew another storm was on the way.

While enjoying some excellent cheese and wine, we observed the clouds getting closer and closer (if you live in the Kansas City area, you really must go). Soon, it began to pour rain, much like the previous night. Lighting! Thunder! The sky was zigzagging with electricity. Then the tornado warning sirens began to sound.

We could not have chosen a finer location to become stranded in a storm, and I truly enjoy them. On the walk down to the basement, we made acquaintances with a couple women celebrating birthdays as we picked up our cheese plate and wine glasses. Our glasses were replenished again by the vineyard agent, and the tornado never materialized.

It was splendid. The only thing that was possibly missing was a substantial green salad to counteract the cheese and wine. For fans of kale salad and garlic who want to branch out, try this broccoli rabe salad. Although this salad is nothing short of strong, broccoli rabe has a flavor all its own that I massaged with a sprinkle of salt to lessen. even intense. The broccoli rabe was then dressed with a garlicky lemon sauce after being massaged. The dish is completed with freshly toasted sunflower seeds, fresh celery, savory Parmesan, and sweet dried cranberries.

I’ve already posted a couple dishes using broccoli rabe on the site, but I didn’t know it existed until about a year ago. It has a distinct flavor that I’ve grown to truly enjoy, and it is overflowing with nutritional advantages. Broccoli rabe peanut soba noodles or roasted broccoli rabe are good places to start if you want to give it a try (broccoli rabe pesto flatbread and lemony roasted potatoes and broccoli rabe). Very excellent!

Also read: Herbed Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing



  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe (about 2 pounds)
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup chopped celery (about 3 celery ribs)
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries

Lemony dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Pull the broccoli rabe leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Wash and spin dry the leaves. Tear any large leaves into small, bite-sized pieces, then transfer the leaves to a large serving bowl.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the sunflower seeds until they are fragrant and starting to turn lightly golden on the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and salt until emulsified. Pour the dressing over the leaves and gently massage the dressing into the leaves until they are lightly coated and the salad has almost halved in size. Taste, and add one to two more teaspoons lemon juice if it needs more zip.
  4. Add the chopped celery, grated Parmesan, toasted sunflower seeds and dried cranberries to the serving bowl. Toss again and serve immediately.