Spanakopita-Greek Spinach Pie

This spinach pie is a Greek recipe, not a Moroccan one. I’m still working hard on my Moroccan recipes. The truth is there are so many good places to eat Moroccan food, and I have a husband that cooks Moroccan so I don’t get to practice often.

I often use the quote “Variety is the spice of life”, to describe how I like to eat. There are many similarities between Greek food and Moroccan, so I find many of the ingredients readily available. Seeing phyllo dough in the supermarket sparked this idea.

It makes a large pan and can easily feed eight people if you are planning a second course. For six people with a nice fresh salad, it’s a wonderful lunch or dinner. It would even make a terrific brunch dish.

Ingredients

• olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 bunch of green onions (I used leeks since green onions weren’t available at this time of year)
• 2 cloves of garlic (I use a lot more!)
• 2 pounds of spinach (I used frozen, it worked perfectly and saved a lot of time)
• ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• ½ cup ricotta
• 1 cup of Feta, crumbled
• 8 sheets of phyllo dough

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9×9 inch square baking pan.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to sauté until spinach is limp about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Be sure to press to eliminate as much residual liquid as possible from this mixture.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture once it has cooled and the excess water is eliminated. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat the process with two more sheets of phyllo.

The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach, cheese mixture into the pan, and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

Greek Spinach Pie
Greek Spinach Pie

La Giralda Cafe in Tangier

It didn’t take long to identify La Giralda as one of those “go to” places for eating and drinking.  There are many reasons it gets high marks.  The incredible view is one of the main ones.

La Giralda is located on rue de Pasteur directly overlooking the Terrasse de Paresseux.  The large windows open to let in the nice breezes and the cigarette smoke out, gaze on a postcard like vista of palm trees, terraced gardens, and the sea.

Terrasse de Paresseux
Terrasse de Paresseux
View from Terrasse de Paresseux
View from Terrasse de Paresseux
Terrasse de Paresseux
Terrasse de Paresseux

The dining room is sumptuously decorated with a beautifully carved ceiling, tapestried curtains, upholstered seats, and columns.  You will feel like you are in a place much more expensive than what you will pay for the pleasure of tea, coffee, breakfast or a light lunch here.

Dining room of Cafe La Giralda
Dining room of Cafe La Giralda
Dining room of Cafe La Giralda
Dining room of Cafe La Giralda

The menu is made of up an assortment of breakfast items, crepes (both sweet and savory) and some sandwiches.  Tea, coffee, and juices are offered for beverages.  You can eat a large brunch for two for less than 10 euro.

I like to order omelets with cheese and mushrooms, toast and coffee.  The plate is always decorated with some cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives.  Fresh squeezed orange juice accompanies most orders.  There are some Moroccan specialties on the breakfast menu such as dried beef with eggs that you should definitely consider.

Brunch at Cafe La Giralda
Brunch at Cafe La Giralda

All types of juice drinks are popular in Morocco.  You can usually order whatever combination you like depending on what is in season.  For example orange and banana, banana and strawberries, or my favorite, milk, and avocado are all good choices.  It sounds peculiar but it’s absolutely delicious.

With the cooler weather, this is the perfect spot for Sunday brunch and we take advantage of it often.  The service is splendid and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed on any front.  I’ll take you here when you visit Tangier.

Chefchaouen, Morocco-The Blue Pearl

This year for Christmas, we gave each other a little trip to nearby Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen, or Chaouen, is about 3 hours from Tangier. We took the CTM bus. The bus is a coach and costs 45 dirhams, or about five dollars each way. What a bargain. There are assigned seats, luggage is stored in the compartment below and it’s relatively comfortable.

Chefchaouen is well known for its beautiful blue washed walls, scenic stairways and alleyways, and artisans that work throughout the historic center. It’s located inland in the Rif Mountains, so the route to access it is steep with winding roads. The village is a photographers dream.

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We stayed in a lovely hotel called Chez Aziz. It is a family owned business and the rooms are all apartments. There is a sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom in each one. They are exquisitely decorated and designed and very comfortable. The location which is just outside of the medina is perfect and the cost can’t be beaten. You can find it on Booking.com.

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It rained for the three days we were there but it didn’t dampen our spirits or our enjoyment of this incredible village. The Place Outa el Hammam, the main square, has outside terraces and cafes where you can sit and enjoy the views and people watch.

The Kasbah is located in this square along with the main mosque.

The Kasbah, Chefchaouen
The Kasbah, Chefchaouen
The Grand Mosque-Chefchaouen
The Grand Mosque-Chefchaouen

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Inside the Kasbah, Chefchaouen
Inside the Kasbah, Chefchaouen

The charm of Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue Pearl, is in exploring the streets and alleyways.

The area around Chefchaouen is one of the most fertile and main producers of cannabis (kif) in Morocco. The scent of it is in the air around the medina and the availability of drugs is one of the main tourist attractions. However, it is illegal in Morocco. There seems to be some tolerance for its use and you will definitely be offered it to buy, but proceed at your own risk.

At the far northeastern gate of the medina, high on the hill lays Ras el Maa. This is the source of water from the mountain that serves Chefchaouen. It’s one of the main reasons the village is built in this area. You can walk there, uphill through the medina, or take a taxi, which will let you off at the source.

Northwest Gate into Chefchaouen Medina
Northwest Gate into Chefchaouen Medina
Ras al Maa
Ras al Maa
Ras el Maa
Ras el Maa

There is a nice bar for tea or soft drinks along the stream that flows there and local women sell their wares or will dress you up as a native for photos.

Me wearing native dress
Me wearing native dress
Ras el Maa
Ras el Maa
Ras el Maa
Ras el Maa

Chefchaouen is very popular with tourists, so in the summer months can become very crowded. I know I will visit again and again!

Rif Mountains
Rif Mountains
Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen

Salt and Pepper?

Salt and pepper shakers are on most tables in the Western world, but what about other places. When I lived in Italy, there was usually salt, but the spicy stuff seemed to take a back seat. In Morocco, I’ve had a completely different observation.

Of course, food in Morocco is spicy and exotic. Salt is used, but sparingly I’ve found (which is a good thing) along with turmeric, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and a million other spices that you can find fresh in the markets.

On the table however, don’t be fooled as I’ve been with those two little shakers. Yes, one has salt, but the other? It’s not usually pepper, but cumin!

I love black pepper, but for a change have started trying cumin on things like eggs, potatoes, salads, and all other items that I would normally season with black pepper. It’s delicious. It also has some amazing health benefits, like

• Aids Digestion. Thymol, a compound in cumin, is known to stimulate the glands that secrete acids, bile and enzymes. …
• Boosts Immune System. …
• Treats Respiratory Disorders. …
• Promotes Skin Health. …
• Treats Insomnia. …
• Prevents Diabetes. …
• Has Antiviral and Antibacterial Properties. …
• High Source of Iron

Don’t get me wrong, pepper has health benefits as well and I’ve read that when you combine pepper, cumin and honey together it gives an aphrodisiac affect. I haven’t tried that yet, but keeping it in mind.

So, the next time you find yourself in Morocco, or some other foreign country, check out what’s in the shakers. Try something different!

Spices in the market
Spices in the market

Reflecting on 2017

I’m feeling a little sentimental today and a whole lot grateful as I sit here reflecting. I really have a terrific life that I am in awe of and a little bit frightened sometimes. Have you ever felt so happy that you have a wave or sense of impending doom because you know it just is impossible to get any better than this?

I push those thoughts away in order to live in the moment and enjoy every second, but sometimes you just have to sit down and take a moment to reflect on just how fortunate you are. It would be wrong to take it for granted.

This time last year, I was preparing for a trip to Tangier. We had thought about moving but I had never been there. I visited to see how I liked it and if it was a place I could live. I fell in love with it and was ready to make the move. Ben needed a little more time. We set the date for the end of September.

In February, we continued our love affair with Tuscany and visited Nippozano winery as guests of some friends, attended Carnevale in Viareggio and I returned to the U.S. for my annual visit to my parents. I also got to visit friends there.

Nipozzano
Nipozzano

Carnevale 2017 Viareggio
Carnevale 2017 Viareggio


March is always a good time to travel and we took a trip to Puglia. We stayed in Ostuni and visited many of the neighboring villages.


In April, my book, The Life I Imagined, was published and a friend held a book signing at her wine store. My brother and sister-in-law visited us for Easter. The sunsets start to become amazing at this time of year and we sat on the bridge to enjoy them.

Karen Mills, author, The Life I Imagined
Karen Mills, author, The Life I Imagined


I went to meet a friend in Bruges in May, and Ben and I took a quick trip to Venice. My best friend who was to visit at the end of May was diagnosed with a brain tumor, so didn’t get to make the trip.

I traveled with some friends up the hill to see the Villa Gamberaia in Settignano with its sweeping views and tranquil gardens. My son, Nick visited us in late June in conjunction with a business trip and we took him to Fiesole for a visit to the Etruscan ruins. The incredible sunsets continued.


July and August are not our favorite months in Florence so we spent a lot of time at the pool, in Castiglioncello thanks to the generosity of a friend, and took trips to Salerno, Camaiore, and Terreglio. At the end of the month, Linda took a turn for the worse and I flew to the U.S. to see her. She died on September 1. It was heartbreaking.


September was the month that we started packing up things, giving things away, selling things and getting down to business for our move. We had already booked our voyage from Genoa to Tangier and had documents to gather for the cats and ourselves. I was dealing with a lot of loss at this point, the loss of my best friend and the upcoming loss of my current home and friends here.

I tried to stay focused on the move and the future, and that worked out well. We made a quick trip to Bassano Del Grappa to see my son, said goodbye to all our friends and our beloved Firenze, and set sail from Genoa with Vincent and Felix James.


After we arrived October 3, it was a whirlwind of activity learning about the city, finding an apartment, moving in and getting settled. We’ve explored, visited, traveled to see Ben’s family and celebrated our first Christmas.


Wow! This year’s journey has had its ups and downs, as they all do, but all in all what a miraculous life. Viewing it like this humbles me/ Thanks for humoring me through this voyage of 2017, your readership at www.Anamericaninitaly.com and www.Directionofyourdreams.com . Thank you for buying my book and thank you for your love, support, and friendship. Happy New Year.

The Tangier Book Club

I love books.  Among the adjustments that you must make when moving to another country, is the lack of printed reading material in your native language, particularly books.  Granted, with computers, e-readers, etc. it is not the problem that it once was.  However, it is still an adjustment.

I bought my first Kindle when I moved to Italy in 2007.  In Florence, there are several English bookstores in the historic center, but they don’t always have the exact book that you want at the exact time.  For this, e-readers can’t be beaten.  A quick search and download and voila!  You have access to most of the books in the world.

Maybe it’s just my age, but aside from the convenience on many levels of e-readers (storage, availability of books, and ease of carrying), there is nothing quite like turning the pages of a real book!  Even with my e-reader, I still try to read a printed book every now and then.

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Tangier Book Club.  Mentioned to me by a friend and avid fan of the book group, I couldn’t wait to visit.  The location is near the Median, near the Grand Socco, and near Villa France, but still, if you don’t know exactly where it is, it’s difficult to find.

It’s well worth the search though. The Tangier Book Club is open to residents and visitors of Tangier.  There is a small membership fee, which entitles you to any/all of the almost 8,000 books in the library.  They even have an online card catalog where you can search for the book that you want.

The library began around 1950 and stays vibrant with volunteers, folks who contribute money and books and by those who frequent the library regularly.

I can’t even begin to explain the feeling I had the first time I stepped inside.  Even though I try to read a real book occasionally, I don’t even remember when the last time I went to a library was.  It was probably when my sons were small, so at least 25 years ago.

The smell of the books, browsing through the shelves, spotting old favorites and finding books that I didn’t know existed was so wonderful and brought back so many precious memories.  The library is currently open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10-1.

You can find more information at their site here, including the librarian’s email address if you would like more information or to arrange a visit.

Irwin, Librarian
Librarian

24 Hours Tarifa, Spain

I just got back from Tarifa. I’m sitting on my sun porch writing this and gazing across the street that the ferry travels several times a day between Tangier and Tarifa. In order to stay in Tangier legally, I must obtain residency. That takes some time and we are in the process of gathering the documents.

View of Tangier from my window
View of Tangier from my window

Although we’ve been to the immigration office twice with the documents that they told us to gather, each time they’ve turned us away with yet more documents to obtain. Italy has a two-step process for obtaining a Permesso di Soggiorno and then residency. Morocco has only one, which covers both, the Carte de Sejour.

Until I have obtained my residency, as a U.S. Citizen, I can be in Morocco for ninety days on a tourist visa. No paperwork is required for that. Once my ninety days is up, I must leave the country and return to restart the clock on the ninety days. That was the purpose of my trip to Tarifa.

A big move like this one where you are changing countries, lifestyles, languages, cultures, and many more everyday things is stressful. I really wasn’t ready to travel. I remember when I moved to Florence, Italy, it was over a year before I decided to take a trip.

Tarifa is a comfortable one-hour ferry ride. The cost of the roundtrip is 660 dirham or about 65 euro. The ferry is very nice and has a bar and a duty-free shop. My trip was delayed a half hour on both sides, but it is all very relaxed and easy.

Inside the ferry
Inside the ferry

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I booked a small hotel room for 30 euro in Tarifa to spend the night. I had planned to do more sightseeing, but when I arrived, I had a nice lunch with a glass of wine in the sun. The first time I had sipped an alcoholic beverage outside for almost ninety days. I walked down to the beach and found a bar/restaurant opened called Waikiki and sat there for a few hours watching windsurfers on the waves.

Beach of Tarifa
Beach of Tarifa
Beach of Tarifa
Beach of Tarifa
Windsports
Windsports
Waikiki Tarifa
Waikiki Tarifa

Tarifa is a lovely little town to pass a short period of time. I was surprised that no one spoke English but managed to conjure enough Spanish to communicate. These multiple languages, none of which I know very well, are killing me.

I explored the historic district behind the Jerez Wall and found it to be lovely, clean, and empty. This seaside town is known for its wind sports so it is definitely offseason for them. Many restaurants and shops were closed. The Guzman Castle is one of the sights in Tarifa, and although I walked by it, couldn’t summon up the desire to enter. Maybe next time. I’ve read there are incredible views and a nice museum inside.

Gate of Jerez
Gate of Jerez
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Courtyard
Courtyard
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Streets of Tarifa Historic Center
Bar in Tarifa
Bar in Tarifa
Castle of Guzman the Good
Castle of Guzman the Good
Castle of Guzman the Good
Castle of Guzman the Good[/caption
I went to dinner and ate Grilled Tuna, which Tarifa is famous for. I have to say it was the best tuna I have ever put into my mouth. Grilled to a perfect medium rare and sprinkled with shaved salt, it was served with soy sauce and wasabi, over a bed of rice made with seaweed and sesame oil. Afterwards, I had a piece of cheesecake and that meal made the whole trip worthwhile.


The meal and the two bottles of Bombay Sapphire that I bought in the Duty-Free shop on board the ferry for 35 euro!

[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Holiday streets Holiday streets

Jerez Gate
Jerez Gate
Castle in Tarifa
Castle in Tarifa

Twenty four hours away from Tangier was just enough to let me know that Tangier is already starting to feel like home. I will probably visit Tarifa again…maybe in another ninety days. It will be spring then and likely a very different place with more visitors. It’s nice to know there is another world an hour away if I ever want an escape. For now, I’m happy at home.

The Anglican Church of St. Andrews-Tangier

Not too far from my apartment, about a five-minute walk, lies the Anglican Church of St. Andrews.  In a country that is 99% Muslim, you don’t see too many churches and this one is very special.

St, Andrews
St, Andrews

Plaquard for St. Andrews
Plaquard for St. Andrews

In 1880, Hassan I donated land to the British community to build a small church for the Anglican population in Tangier.  Afterward, the population was too large for the church and they built another in 1894, which became the Church of St. Andrew.  It was consecrated in 1905.

The church is built in the Moorish Architectures style and is located in an enclosed garden holding a cemetery.  It is peaceful and calm and like entering another world when you walk through the gate.

Entrance to Anglican Church of St. Andrews
Entrance to Anglican Church of St. Andrews

Some famous people are buried in the small but beautiful cemetery including Walter Harris, a British Writer, Sir Harry McLean, and Paul Lund.    Emily Kean introduced the procedure of vaccinations to Morocco, which has most certainly saved countless lives and she is buried in the graveyard.
Tomb of Sir Harry MacLean
Tomb of Sir Harry MacLean

Tombstone Walter Harris
Tombstone Walter Harris

Grave of Walter Harris
Grave of Walter Harris

These are just a few of the people buried there and spending some time here to read the tombstones and the people who passed through or made their homes in Tangier is very interesting.

The bell tower is shaped like a minaret and the inside is a beautiful mix of styles.  The Lord’s Prayer is written in Arabic over the entrance of the altar.  Behind the altar is a cleft indicating the direction of Mecca and a passage from the Quran in on the wall.

Bell Tower of St. Andrews
Bell Tower of St. Andrews

Altar of St. Andrews
Altar of St. Andrews

Altar of St. Andrews
Altar of St. Andrews

The church is still well attended and we went to a Christmas Carol Service here last weekend.  We sang about eight or ten carols, members of the congregation participated in readings from the Bible, and afterward, hot chocolate and cookies were served.  There was a collection to assist Syrian refugees.
Lord's Prayer in Arabic
Lord’s Prayer in Arabic

Quote from the Quran
Quote from the Quran

This is a lovely place to visit in Tangier, but not easy to find open.  I had tried to visit in January and many days since I have lived here.  It is listed in all of the tourist books.  This service was the perfect opportunity to visit and to celebrate Christmas at the same time.

Cap Spartel-Tangier, Morocco

Cap Spartel is the North Western most point of the African coast.  The land juts out over the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea and is about 1000 feet above sea level.  The wonderful sweeping views are stunning.

Below Cap Spartel lies the Caves of Hercules which you can visit during the same trip.  It is only about 14 kilometers from Tangier.  There are some day trips available, or take a taxi to spend more time and less money.

Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea
Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea

This point played its place in history during the indecisive battle between the British and Franco-Spanish troops.  The battle was about bringing supplies into Gibraltar and occurred in October of 1782.  In 1911, the British P&O Liner, S.S. Delhi ran aground nearby.  All of the passengers were rescued, but three French rescuers died.  In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, the Battle of Cap Espartel occurred at this point.

The drive from Tangier to Cap Spartel is stunning.  The National Road goes through La Montagne an exclusive suburban development of villas and palaces in a pinewood forest.

Cap Spartel Lighthouse
Cap Spartel Lighthouse

Some really nice beaches lie along the coast road nearby which I can’t wait to revisit once the weather is warmer.  The lighthouse at the outermost point is closed.  Onsite is a restaurant and some vendors outside selling drinks and juices.

Cafe Hafa-Historic Cafe in Tangier

Cafe Hafa is a magical place located on the cliffs of Tangier overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. We like to go there at almost any time of day, but particularly for lunch. Sunset is a very popular time, so if you decide to go there then, go at least an hour before sunset and earlier if it is on a weekend. Cafe Hafa is a popular place for locals as well as tourists.

They serve mint tea all day and in tall glasses with lots of fresh mint and sugar. We order Fava Bean soup, which comes with a loaf of crusty bread and a bowl of olives. Spicy harissa is on the side for those who like a little heat. Dip the crusty bread in the thick soup and feel the comfort of simple food in an enchanted place.

Lunch at Cafe Hafa
Lunch at Cafe Hafa

The café opened in 1921 and after almost 100 years of existence, it is a landmark place to visit in Tangier. It is characteristically styled with mosaic tables and a tiered whitewashed terrace that cascades down to the sea. Everyone can see the glorious views. Trees and flowering shrubs grow throughout the terraced space giving shade, privacy, and a tropical feel.
The terrace at Cafe Hafa
The terrace at Cafe Hafa

Cruise ships, freighters, fishing boats and sailors all pass by this busy canal on their way to someplace exotic. The coast of Spain is visible on a clear day, and ferries shuttle visitors and workers back and forth hourly.

An inspiration for artists of all types, this café was a hangout for Paul and Jane Bowles, William S. Burroughs, The Beatles, Jami Hendrix, Sean Connery, and The Rolling Stones.

The view from Cafe Hafa
The view from Cafe Hafa

Café Hafa is not easy to find, but hop in any petite taxi and say “Café Hafa, Marshan” and they will take you there. Once you exit the taxi, look for the small alley sized street where people are exiting and walk down it. You will find Café Hafa marked with a white arch, seaside. Enjoy!
The view from Cafe Hafa
The view from Cafe Hafa