SweeTango Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters

Story by Holly
SweeTango Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters
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There’s just something about this time of year with all it’s back to school hustle and bustle and the promises of crisp fall air soon to follow that get me very excited and make saying goodbye to our glorious NW summers bearable. My heart first skips a beat at the start of September when the NW apple season begins and I start dreaming of apple pie, cobbler, caramel cider and crisp apples eaten with nut butters or simply enjoyed on their own.

Last year at this time I was in the beautiful city of Seattle for a food blogging conference. During my time there I had the pleasure of attending a “meet the growers” dinner hosted by Stemilt growers, and their founding family, the Mathisons. I remember everything about that meal as if I just ate it yesterday. Every dish featured one of Stemilt’s stunning varieties of apples or pears and the flavors were surprising and impactful. My favorite course of the night was a butternut squash and pear soup which was brilliantly topped with a cluster of the most delicious pumpkin seed brittle. Such a great autumn dish.

I’ve been a fan of Stemilt apples ever since that glorious meal last fall, and now here we are a full year later and Stemilt has continued to impress the apple lover in me. This year Natalie and I were introduced to the SweeTango apple and given the seasonal produce nerd that I am, I might be a little too excited about it. In the past, I've been a Honeycrisp girl through and through, but now that I've met the SweeTango my affections have some fierce competition. The SweeTango apple is the result of a harmonious union between my beloved Honeycrisps (where it acquires sweet honey and citrus notes) and the lesser known, but no less delicious Zestar variety (which lends a mild tartness, vibrant acidity and spicy fall notes), making it quite possibly, the perfect apple.

SweeTango Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters

Because of the sweet, crunchy nature of these beauties, Natalie and I prefer to use them fresh and uncooked, reserving any baked apple dishes for good ol’ tart green Granny Smith apples. SweeTango apples are just too good on their own, and when eaten as is, all their attributes are allowed to brightly shine through. Recently, we added these shiny red gems to a hearty kale salad tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, and threw in some goat cheese, shredded chicken and our own version of that scrumptious pumpkin seed brittle just for good measure. As much as I love a hearty warm meal that's been simmering away for hours, the addition of something fresh on my table is always so welcome, and even more so if it features seasonal beauties like these SweeTango apples. Nothing says “welcome to fall” like the perfect apple, and now that I've found it I'm not letting it go. But I will share. Sharing is good.

This post was sponsored by Stemilt Growers. All opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the brands that The Modern Proper loves.

SweeTango Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters

Serves 4

Pumpkin Seed Clusters

3/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp sugar

Creamy Apple Cider Dressing

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper


2 bunches of Italian kale, stems removed and finely chopped
1/2 cup Creamy Apple Cider Dressing (or more to taste)
2 cups shredded chicken, either poached or from a rotisserie chicken
2 Stemilt SweeTango Apples, cut into matchsticks
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pumpkin seed clusters


  1. In a small bowl toss all ingredients for the pumpkin seed clusters together. Set a small sauce pan over medium high heat and add the mixture. Heat, tossing constantly until the sugar starts to melt, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium or medium-low (depending on your stove top). Continue to toss the mixture until all the sugar is melted and the pumpkin seeds are lightly toasted. About 2-3 minutes longer. Turn over onto a piece of parchment or wax paper Let cool completely and break into large chunks.
  2. In a small bowl add all ingredients for the dressing and blend together until smooth. Set aside or make ahead. Dressing will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  3. To assemble salad, toss the kale in the dressing. Use more dressing if the salad seems too dry. Using your hands, squeeze or “massage” the kale while dressing it. This will make the kale more tender. Top with chicken, Stemilt SweeTango apple matchsticks, crumbled goat cheese and sweet pumpkin seed clusters. Enjoy!

*note: Kale will keep its crunch for a couple of days, even when dressed. This salad is great to make ahead for weekday lunches.