Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Miracle Boule: The Best Homemade Bread Ever

 The sparse and lonely crumbs left on the cutting board would have to agree with my husband who says, “this is the best bread you’ve ever made”. I agree with him too. They devoured it. It took me twenty-four hours of waiting and it was gone within an hour once it was ready. I can’t blame them though.  This is the best homemade bread I’ve ever made.  I knew it was special when I could hear it cooling on the rack, crackling away.

 I started making bread about three years ago, just on a whim.  I thought I’d give it a try after reading a “no-knead” bread recipe.  It sounded appealing, since the only real “work” is waiting to eat delicious bread. Granted, I don’t enjoy waiting for bread, but this bread is definitely worth the wait.

 I’ve tried several different recipes, all of which were very similar. For whatever reason, this one is flat out amazing and miles above the rest.  I’m making it again now (as it sits on the counter for tomorrow).

They can’t get their fill fast enough!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups/375 g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • Cornmeal, wheat bran or extra flour, as needed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups/375 ml water.  After stirring it should be wet, shaggy and sticky.  Cover the bowl with a clean, dry kitchen towel or a loose fitting lid (that allows for air to flow).  Set it aside to rest on the kitchen counter top for 24 hours, no less than 12 hours. It’s ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.  Flour a work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover again with the towel and let rest 15 minutes.
  2. Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with cornmeal, wheat bran or flour and lay the dough on it, seam-side down. Dust with more cornmeal, wheat bran or flour. (You need quite a lot because you want to be sure the dough doesn’t stick to the towel). Cover and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.
  3. A half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Put a 2-liter cast-iron pot or Dutch oven inside to heat.
  4. When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough into it, seam-side up. (It will look messy, but this is OK.) Shake the pot to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is nicely browned, another 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

 

Source: Laura Calder: French Food at Home.  Episode, “The Bread Show”

 

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Peanut Sesame Noodles: Featuring Summer Squash

 

This is one of those dishes.  It’s one of those obvious template recipes, where you can add whatever your favorite vegetables are or whatever is in season at the moment.  It’s similar to a salad, but bulkier and more interesting.   I don’t make many Asian dishes, so the optional use of linguini fini on this recipe is really what makes it a hit in my house.  We always have linguini and sometimes, I just want to make and eat something a little different without resorting to takeout.    I keep the ginger and sesame products in the fridge and freezer so they don’t spoil easily and that way I have them on hand when I want them.  It’s just a really easy lunch or weeknight dinner that’s ready in minutes without much fuss.    It’s even faster than takeout and made the way you like it.

 

 

Peanut Sesame Noodles 

Peanut dressing

  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (more if desired)
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 medium garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
Summer Squash
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups chopped summer squash
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Noodle Salad

  • 3/4 lb dried linguine fini
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

 

Make Dressing:
Purée dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Make Summer Squash:

In a nonstick sauté pan over high heat, add all ingredients.  Cook, tossing every minute or two until tender.   Drop into bowl with dressing.

Make Salad:

Cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, parsley and sesame seeds to dressing, tossing to combine, and serve immediately.
Adapted From: Gourmet 2002

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Six Cheese Tomato and Chard Pizza

I have a (not so) secret obsession with pizza. Is that wrong?  I don’t really think so, but it is my personal gateway to flat out food nerd.  I’m ok with that though.   I wanted a really good pizza.   The only problem with that is that I live here.

Which is beautiful, but not very conducive to eating the great pizza I grew up with (which was about an hour closer to the city than I am currently).

So, here’s my latest creation. It’s a sauceless pizza but not exactly a white pizza since it doesn’t have ricotta and I’m pretty sure if you call anything without ricotta a white pizza, you might get tackled by white pizza fanatics. I’m not a fan of being tackled.

Besides, the tomatoes and chard clearly make it unwhite in color.  So, even though the chard was “white chard”, it’s clearly the greens in the pizza,  so calling it a white pizza would just be nonsensical.  Right?  I think so.  Maybe.  It’s a pizza conundrum perhaps?  Moving on…

 You could add ricotta if you’d like, but I wanted to keep this one a little lighter for the summer.   I used a blend of six cheeses so I could use it sparingly without sacrificing flavor.   I pureed some garlic and shallots with some warmed olive oil, seasoned it with a little salt, pepper and red pepper.  I brushed that over the crust before I did anything else to give it some flavor.  I also blanched the chard in salted water  and drained the excess liquid (squeezing: super technical, I know) before placing it on the pizza so it didn’t get all bitter and watery.   Bitter and watery pizza sounds really torturous, and this is most certainly not despite the ample helping of greens.

After the olive oil I scattered the chard with some basil and topped that with a single layer of some very ripe and thinly sliced beefsteak tomatoes (side note: I would have used heirloom if I could have found them, but didn’t have any luck with that). I sprinkled a pinch of dried oregano and thyme over the tomatoes and topped that with a blend of Italian cheeses: mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, provolone, fontina and romano cheeses.  I found it preblended and it sounded good.  It was!  I then baked it according to the recipe and finished it with additional freshly torn basil and dash of olive oil.

I recommend purchasing pizza dough from your local pizza place if you have a decent one around, which will shave about two hours off this recipe.  You should have a pizza stone though, if you’re using pizzeria bought dough.   If you do not have any good pizza dough around, there’s no need to worry because I always make my own pizza dough, it just takes a bit of planning since it needs to sit.  Some doughs I make require an overnight fridge rise, but this one only takes a couple of hours.  I found it here on Serious Eats and it’s great if I didn’t plan on making pizza the day before, which can happen rarely and occasionally.

Six Cheese Tomato and Chard Pizza

(with shallot and garlic, white chard and basil)

  • Pizza dough (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 small or 1 large shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 large handfuls of white chard (about 4 cups packed) washed and stemmed
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves (about 1 cup packed) plus more for garnish
  • salted water and ice water, for blanching and shocking the chard
  • ripe beefsteak tomato slices
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 2 brimming handfuls, finely grated, Blended Italian cheeses (about 8 ounces or 2 cups) : mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, asiago, fontina and romano
  • Drizzle of high quality olive oil to finish, one to two tablespoons

Prepare dough as directed below. Warm olive oil and blend with shallots and garlic in food processor or blender until evenly puréed. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, blend once more and set aside.  Bring salted water to a boil and drop the chard into the boiling water until wilted, or about 2 minutes.  Drain and submerge into ice water.   Drain chard. Using your hands, squeeze excess liquid. Place onto clean, dry towel.

Thirty minutes before baking the pizza, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 550°F.   Remove plastic wrap from pizza dough and drizzle hands with olive oil.  Gently push and stretch the dough into the corners of the pan by pressing out from the center and lifting each corner and stretching it beyond the edge of the pan. It should pull back until the pan is just filled with dough.

Brush pizza with shallot/garlic oil.  Chop chard and fresh basil together, season to taste and scatter over the dough.  Top with tomato slices, season to taste and sprinkle with thyme and oregano. Top with cheese. Bake in prepared oven until bottom is crisp and top surface is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes. Top with more basil and a drizzle of high quality olive oil.  Slice and enjoy.

 

Pizza dough

  • 17.5 ounces (500 grams, about 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose or bread flour
  • .35 ounces (10 grams, about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt
  • .18 ounces (5 grams, about 1 teaspoon) instant or Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12.25 ounces (347 grams) water (see note)

Combine flour, salt, yeast, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in bowl of stand mixer.   Whisk to combine.

Add water to mixer and mix on medium speed until it comes together and no dry flour remains. Increase speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is stretchy and smooth, about 6 minutes. The dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl but pull away from the sides.

prepare for baking: pour remaining olive oil into a 13 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet and spread over entire inner surface with hands. Transfer dough into prepared baking sheet and rub top surface of dough with oil until thoroughly coated.

Cover with baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until dough has spread out to touch nearly each rim of baking sheet, about 2 hours.  Bake as directed (above).

Sources:

Inspired by: NY Times article and This Food and Wine Recipe

Pizza dough by : J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats

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“Chocolate Awesomes”

It has rained for four days in a row!  Granted, my tomato plants are happy the heat wave has ended, but we’re stuck indoors and the kids and I are a bit bored.  We did crafts, we did board games, we even cleaned (sorta-kinda), but it was short-lived.   So, what else to do but bake something?  Right?  My kids aren’t really one for anything exotic so when I told Trey I was going to make something that involved chocolate and cookies, he was pretty excited.  Max screamed, “I EAT COOKIES NOMM MNOMM MNOMMM”, executing his best cookie monster impression.  I asked if they wanted to help, to which they replied with the suggestion that they “just do the dishes instead,” while playing with my kitchen-designated tape measure.  Doesn’t every home cook and baker have kitchen-designated tape measure?  I shrugged and figured since they are cute and entertaining, I would just do the work for them.  I do like baking.

So, while they ran around and annoyed each other and chased each other around like a live showing of Tom and Jerry, (minus the weapons and tails);  I whipped up these beauties.   They’re unlike any cookie I have ever baked before, and they are beyond amazing.  Seriously, these are the best cookies I’ve baked in years and I bake a lot of cookies from a lot of different recipes.   Melted marshmallow is the key along with a higher oven temperature and shorter baking time (than most cookie recipes call for).  They’re crispy on the edges and almost fudge-like and chewy in the middle.  They’re rich and chocolaty yet simple and light from the marshmallow.   They’re phenomenal, if I do say so myself.    But, I think a lot of things are phenomenal. The ultimate critic is my five-year old who hates everything, Trey.

Trey sniffed the cookie, then examined it closely, holding it up to his eye, inspecting every angle  (to which Max and I rolled our eyes, just a bit… I admit).  He then took a bite,

“Chocolate Awesomes”, he replied with delight in his eye and a chin full of melted chocolate.   They were silent for almost ten minutes before the sugar rush hit them.   After that, it’s all a blur.  But, I know that these are a winner.   A definite keeper for a lifetime to come.

 

“Chocolate Awesomes”

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
  • 2 cups dark chocolate morsels
  1. Melt butter in microwave safe bowl on high in microwave until completely liquefied and lightly bubbling.  Add mini marshmallows and stir.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda  and dark cocoa powder together.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat brown sugar and egg.  Add whisked dry ingredients in two additions mixing after each addition.
  4. Add chilled cream to slightly cooled melted butter-marshmallow mixture and stir.  Pour into the other ingredients while mixing on low with an electric mixer until just combined.
  5. Fold in dark chocolate morsels.
  6. Chill cookie dough for one hour.
  7. Place oven rack in center of oven.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Grease or parchment-line three standard 11×17 inch rimmed cookie sheets.
  10. Using a round tablespoon measure, scoop batter into leveled tablespoons and drop onto prepared cookie sheets.
  11. Bake 1 dozen at a time in preheated oven in center rack for 6-8 minutes.
  12. Cool on pan for three minutes then remove with a metal spatula and place onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes three dozen cookies

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Fresh Blueberry Pie

I always change my pie recipes depending on the season and the particular fruit I have directly in front of me.   I’m sure if I made this a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t need any lemon at all since blueberries that are even slightly out of season are very sour.    This recipe I found originally called for three-quarters of a cup of sugar and only one tablespoon lemon juice.

  I actually added more lemon juice after tasting the filling the recipe called for because it was too sweet after adding all that sugar, knowing that it would be a bit runny. I had very ripe berries and had to balance them with the sourness of the lemon, which tasted fantastic. I’d rather a pie be messy and taste awesome than be too sweet to eat.  That’s the funny thing about pie recipes.   Everybody has a method.  Some people blind bake and egg wash the crust, other people use arrowroot or tapioca or flour to thicken the syrup.   Some people just open a can of pie filling and say, “forget it!”.

 I like fresh fruit in my pies.   I don’t think there’s anything comparable.   You just have to taste the filling as you go and you’ll have a perfect pie every time.   I adapted this recipe from the original recipe I tried since it tasted the best and was the easiest, had the fewest ingredients and the fewest steps.  I made sure to add only some of the sugar and then more to taste, to avoid my delicious runny mess as seen in the photo.  While it tasted delicious, some people aren’t a fan of their pie oozing all over the place, so I fixed that for you.  No need to over complicate pie, in my opinion.  The ratio of berries to crust was just perfect too, which I think is the most important part.  It’s a humble and delicious way to showcase the beautiful blueberries that are popping up now.  It’s very easy to prepare and is well-beyond the effort that goes into it, which makes it an instant winner, in my opinion.

Fresh Blueberry Pie

  • 2 rolled out rounds basic pie crust (store bought or homemade)
  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated organic lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Roll one dough round over rolling pin and transfer into 9-inch pie plate.  Ease the pie crust into corners of pie plate without stretching it.  Cut pie crust to fit pie plate, leaving some overhang to seal top and bottom crusts together.  Set aside.

Place blueberries into a mixing bowl.  Add lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest, salt and ground cinnamon.  Toss to combine, cover and refrigerate for ten minutes.  Taste and add more lemon or sugar if desired.

Sprinkle cornstarch over berries and toss until the filling is uniform in color and texture.  Pour filling into pie crust and dot evenly with butter.   Top with remaining pie crust in either a lattice pattern or a cut-out   (Note: there must be negative space in the top pie crust to vent the steam from the berries). Seal bottom and top crusts together  by rolling and pinching at edges. Refrigerate for twenty minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake in preheated oven for fifty minutes.  Remove and cool on a cooling rack.   Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or lemon-vanilla whipped cream.

 

Adapted from  : Williams-Sonoma 

Additional sources and inspiration: All-recipes , chowhound,  Betty CrockerEpicurious

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Broccoli and Cheddar Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes


In case you didn’t notice the blistering heat indices afflicting our lovely nation, let me tell ya… it’s been really hot outside.   That means I don’t use the oven much, but when I do bake, I do it in the morning before the sun starts tormenting my feeble air conditioning.

Grilling season is in full swing and so that means that while most people focus on the steak and the marinade, and all that fancy stuff, I’m thinking about some vegetable skewers, salads, sweet corn, baked beans, veggie burgers and this lovely side dish.  A rich and comforting twice baked potato.

 

I am apparently one of the few that has always loved broccoli.   It was always my favorite vegetable as a kid, so I don’t really understand many others’ aversion to this underrated, humble vegetable. However, one thing I definitely understand is that smothering it in tangy sharp cheddar cheese and seasoning  it into delicious submission with black pepper and sea salt will always impress even the worst of the broccoli cynics.   It’s empirically delicious, in my honest opinion. You can disagree all you’d like, but you’d have to try it before you completely declare broccoli hatred. I think you might be a changed person because of it.

   I do the initial baking in the morning when it’s still cool.  That way the oven isn’t on for hours in the sun-scorched afternoon.   Just finish it off a half hour before dinner time and you’re good to go.  You might even be able to put these on a top rack of a grill to finish. I’ve yet to try that but I’d be intrigued to test it out in the near future.

Simple and easy, quick to finish and deliciously hearty and comforting.

 

Broccoli and Cheddar Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 2 extra large baking potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 ounces marbled sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grated shallot
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets (you may add more if desired)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • parsley or chives, for garnish

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and wrap potatoes in foil.   Bake until tender, then remove from oven and bring to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Unwrap potatoes, and using a spoon, scoop out the potato and reserve in a mixing bowl, leaving a rim of white on the skin so they’re not too flimsy to stuff.   Steam the broccoli until tender but still slightly crisp and still brightly colored.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place skins into a shallow oven safe dish.  Bake empty potato skins until crisp, or about ten minutes.

Add melted butter, grated shallot and half of the grated cheese to the reserved potato and mash.   Fold in steamed broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop potato mix back into the baked potato skins and  top with remaining cheddar cheese.  Place in preheated oven until bubbly (about 5-7 minutes)

Top with parsley or chives to finish.

 

 

 

 

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Black Bean and Veggie Burritos

Ok, Confession time:

I haven’t been out of the house without my children since I turned thirty.   Well, really since Max was born.   He’s now two years old.   I went out for a couple of hours once to try to enjoy myself, but, I worried the entire time and ran back home as fast as I could.

Yes, every wedding, every girls night, every everything has been put on hold in place of my crazy mommy martyrdom, until recently when the stars aligned, and an opportunity arose for me to be both worry free and child free for more than one twenty four hour period coming this Sunday.   I might even get to see a movie that isn’t rated G!  Or…perhaps go to a non-chain restaurant and have more than one cocktail in a sitting while speaking with real grown ups.

I also promised myself that I would not do all the things that I always swear I’ll do someday when they’re older, like match all the unmatched socks or organize the DVDs, or tackle the pantry that mocks me every time I open it.   No, there will be time for that.  This break is just a mini break. One that’s long enough to remind me just how awesome they are, even when they pull off every single one of my keys from my laptop (grumble) and not so long that I end up cuddling their stuffed animals while watching home movies.

So, I got to thinking and I asked my husband, Mike, what we would eat while the kids were gone (besides going out, obviously).   He said, “all the stuff we love that the kids hate”.  That answered my question.   Burritos!   Yes, we love burritos.  Cheesy, spicy, tangy, delicious burritos.  Our obsession started a very long time ago and has yet to subside.    So, here’s the recipe for our most favorite burritos of all time.   I’ll occasionally mix up the ingredients, but this is the backbone of the recipe.  Feel free to substitute or add whatever your favorites are.   Everyone deserves a burrito now and then.

While we finish up family fun in the sun and fireworks and barbecue everything we possibly can, these will be waiting…with a big margarita on the side, just for me.

Black Bean and Veggie Burritos

  • large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into thin half moons
  • roasted cumin
  • cayenne
  • Large , “Burrito sized” tortillas, warmed
  • Prepared black beans (recipe follows)
  • Prepared vegetarian yellow rice (recipe follows)
  • lime juice
  • cilantro

serve with the following optional additions:

  1. your favorite salsa or pico de gallo
  2. diced avocado or guacamole
  3. sour cream
  4. Mexican blend cheese
  5. shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes

 

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat cook onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent. Add garlic and toss for about one minute. Add peppers and zucchini and cook until just tender, or about three minutes.  Turn heat to low and add one teaspoon of roasted cumin, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne and stir, add salt to taste.  Add more cumin and cayenne, if desired. Squeeze half a lime’s juice, evenly over hot vegetables and add a pinch of freshly chopped cilantro to finish. In warmed tortillas add a thin layer of yellow rice and black beans (recipes below)  then top with some of the sautéed vegetables along with your favorite additions listed above.  Enjoy.

 

Black Beans

  • 1 cups dried black beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped peppers
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of puréed chipotle in adobo
  • 1-2 teaspoons roasted cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetarian vegetable stock
  • juice from one lime
Sort beans, rinse thoroughly and soak in cold water, covered, over night in the refrigerator.   Drain soaking liquid and rinse beans again.   In a large pot over medium heat, add beans, salt, olive oil, onions, peppers, garlic, chili powder, pureed chipotle in adobo and cumin.   Stir until fragrant and then add stock.  Cover and cook until beans are tender then add the lime juice.

Vegetarian Yellow Rice

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced (or coarsely grated) shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups (scant) vegetarian vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

In saucepan over medium-high heat, add oil, shallot and garlic.   Cook until soft and fragrant, about two minutes.  Add rice and toast until golden brown, about two more minutes.  Add broth, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover until almost all the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and keep covered until rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.

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