Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Feeling Smart, and Chopped Thai Kale Salad

I was having lunch with a friend today, a professor (who never taught me in his own class, oddly enough), at a place that I used to love in a former life.  I'd suggested getting together; despite an event in our relationship that almost ended it, I still enjoy his company, and he's the sort of person who seems to know everything, or at least, knows enough to make it look like he knows everything.  We talked about traveling, and writing, and students, and books, and somehow--I'm still not quite sure how this happened--I ended up giving him an idea for the final text of the last large lecture course of his career.

I got to thinking, after lunch was over and I was driving home, about what made me so comfortable in conversation with him, despite the fact that I consider him much more well-read that I--a quality in others that often makes me draw inward.  And it occurred to me that there's a difference between people who are well-read and make you feel like you don't know anything, and people who are well-read and somehow still manage to make you "feel smart," to value even your crazy ideas, to look like they are listening, to leave space--real space, not just polite space--for you in the conversation.

I told him that some day if he ever needs a home for his books, as he moves out of his offices and into retirement, that I'd help him; I would love to own some of the titles on his shelves, things perhaps that I read myself long ago and gave away when I thought that they were no longer a part of my identity.  He loves this idea.  And perhaps that's just the physical manifestation of a different kind of intellectual generosity.

I am surrounded by highly intelligent people where I work, by colleagues who have gone to the most elite schools in the country and by some of the most well-known scholars of their generation.  Some of them are just that: they profess.  And yet some of them, somehow, find ways to open up space for people who are not quite the luminaries of the next generation, who can make us all feel "smart."

Who are the teachers and mentors who, over the years, opened up space in the conversation for you?

Thai Peanut Chicken and Kale Chopped Salad
This is the sort of refreshing salad that you might serve to entertain a friend for a summer afternoon conversation over a whole host of thing; it's sort of like another I posted a while ago, but different enough that it's worth posting here nonetheless.

8 c. finely chopped kale leaves (1 bunch, stems removed)
2 t. olive oil
3 c. shredded kohlrabi (you can also use cabbage here, or a mix of other crunchy vegetables, including red bell pepper)
2 c. rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
3 medium green onions, sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
3 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. fresh lime juice
2 t. honey
1/4 t. ground ginger (more)
1/8 t. crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the kale and olive oil. Massage the olive oil into the kale with your hands 1 to 2 minutes until kale is softened slightly.

Add kohlrabi, chicken, carrots, peanuts, cilantro and green onions to the mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine all the dressing ingredients (water through garlic). Whisk constantly over medium-low heat about 3 minutes or until smooth and slightly thickened. Cool dressing 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, drizzle cooled dressing over salad and toss to combine.
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