A tale of two cities

Malibu Way of Life / By Judy Stump

Fifteen years ago I went to Turkey on a dare. Susan Klein, pastor of St. Aidan’s, challenged me to join her on a three-week autotrek following St. Paul’s path through the eastern Mediterranean. For logistical reasons, we never rented that car in Istanbul, but the city was delightful. Pre-war trolleys ferried friendly passengers around town and across the Bosporus and cab rides were quick and cheap-once one recovered from fares quoted in millions. A million Turkish lira was then about two bucks. The sites of the city were at once accessible and awesome, from the decaying glories of Byzantium to the mind-numbing wealth of the Ottoman Empire.

When we flew to Athens, we were stymied by the traffic and stifled by the polluted air. Here, the sites were, if anything, even more stunning but a hike up the acropolis left us gasping for oxygen. You could stand in front of the Parthenon and have difficulty making out the national government buildings only a few hundred yards below.

Today, all that is changed. Athens has a sparkling new metro in which you can travel almost everywhere for about seventy-five cents. It will even take you to the airport for $8. Whether from civic pride or personal economy, the most popular new car in town is the Toyota Prius. The effect of these changes is a city vibrant with good health, happy people and a booming economy.

In contrast, Istanbul has ground to a halt. In the intervening decade and a half, the city has grown from ten million to forty million inhabitants without viable public transportation. It is faster to walk across town than to take a cab, at any price-and prices have grown as fast as the populace. It is still beautiful, in a setting few cities enjoy, but I kept thinking one thing: what Istanbul needs is a good Olympics.

And, then, I thought again: what Los Angeles needs is another Olympics. Maybe this time, we’ll follow Athens’ lead and get a citywide metro out of the effort.

SMOKY CREAMED EGGPLANT WITH LAMB adapted from “Classical Turkish Cooking” by Ayla Algra

Serves 4 – 6

I first had smoky creamed eggplant on the Greek island of Rhodes where it accompanied grilled meat. The waiter made a ritual of scooping the pulp from its charred skin and whipping it with olive oil, lemon juice, cheese and a sprig of fresh oregano. Imagine my surprise a week later when I had almost the same creamy eggplant served with stewed lamb in Istanbul. There, I was told, it was the national dish, known as Sultan’s Feast.

Eggplant Cream

2 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds)

3 T. lemon juice

5 T. butter

2 T. flour

1 c. light cream, warm

1 c. crumbled fresh feta or kasseri cheese

Sultan’s Stewed Lamb

2 lb. lamb chops, boned, trimmed of fat and cubed

2 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1 1/ 2 c. onions, chopped

1 large can chopped tomatoes

2 T. Better Than Beef bouillon

1/ 4 c. chopped parsley

3 T. dried thyme

1 bay leaf

3 – 4 whole cloves

Eggplant

1. Using either a barbecue grill or gas stovetop, place the eggplants on the burner and cook until charred black on all sides and squishy inside. Cool enough to handle.

2. Mix lemon juice with cold water to cover. Hold the eggplant by the stem and carefully peel the black skin, making sure that all hard or discolored bits are discarded. Scrape away as many seeds as you can extract and drop the flesh into the lemon water for 20-30 minutes.

3. Remove the eggplant by the stem and hold it over the sink to squeeze out as much water as you can. Cut off the stem and shred the eggplant with a fork or your fingers.

4. Make a roux: Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour, cooking until it starts to color. Stir in the eggplant, whisking until smooth. Slowly pour in the cream. When it is very hot, stir in the cheese and add salt to taste.

Lamb

1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Brown in the butter. Skim, if necessary.

2. Stir in onions and cook until wilted. Add tomatoes, herbs, bouillon and spices and cook two minutes. Pour in 1/ 2 cup water.

3. Cover and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if meat starts to stick. The sauce should be thick.

4. To serve, spread the hot eggplant over a plate and spoon the lamb into the center.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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