OPTIONAL BLANCH: Remove the stems from the broccoli and cut them into very small pieces. If you want to blanch the broccoli, see Note 1. I like to use a salad spinner and then let it sit out for a while. If it's even a tiny bit wet, the salad becomes too watery.
PREP: If not blanching broccoli, cut into very small pieces. If desired, toast the almonds. (See Note 2.) Cut the cheese into tiny cubes.
SALAD: Add the completely dry broccoli, cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, and sharp Cheddar cheese to a large bowl.
DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, red wine vinegar, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more sugar (1-2 more tablespoons) or more lemon to personal preference. Whisk in the poppy seeds.
DRESS THE SALAD: Toss the dressing with the salad and place in the fridge to marinate for 15-30 minutes. Taste and adjust any flavors to personal preference. Don't shy away from adding more salt and pepper until the flavors sing. Toss once more and enjoy.
STORAGE: Salad is best eaten the same day it is made.
Note 1:Broccoli: Blanch if you don't want any raw broccoli taste and have extra time/desire to do this, but it's not necessary. Here's how to do it: Fill up a bowl with very cold water and a few cupfuls of ice. Bring a pot of water to boiling point. Add in a heaping tablespoon of fine sea salt. Pour the broccoli into the boiling water and count to 30. As soon as you get to 30, drain the broccoli and pour it into your prepared ice water bath. Allow the broccoli to sit in the cold water until completely cooled. Then remove with a slotted spoon to a salad spinner or bowl. Make sure the broccoli is 100% dried before tossing it with anything else (especially the dressing).Note 2: Almonds: To toast the almonds, place them in a single layer in a heavy skillet (you don’t need to add anything else) and stir them around on medium-low heat. It only takes about 2-3 minutes (sometimes less, depending on how much heat they are getting) until they are toasted and smelling quite fragrant. Make sure you are stirring them around and watching constantly so they don’t have a chance to burn!