Salad for Melanie


Melanie, a life-long salad hater, recently discovered a salad that she actually enjoys.


Here is the recipe.

Use leftover roasted duck meat, or duck confit legs – in this case make sure to check and adjust the seasoning, most store-bought duck confits are very salty.
Usually there is enough duck fat clinging to the meat to crisp it. If the duck looks dry, add a little olive to the pan to prevent sticking.

Duck, fig, and walnut salad
Serves 4

5 oz mixed baby greens (arugula, red and green leaf lettuce, baby romain, oak leaf lettuce, mizuna, mâché, etc.)
1 large or 2 small roasted duck legs
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
8 figs, quartered

For the dressing:
2 figs
1 Tbsp chopped shallot (1 small shallot)
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
3 Tbsp walnut oil
Salt, pepper

Divide the greens between four plates.

Remove duck meat (with the skin and fat) from the bones. Discard the bones. Tear the meat into bite-size pieces.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, if using. Add duck meat, cook, stirring occasionally, to warn through and crisp, about 3 minutes. Add walnuts, stir to warm through, about 1 minute. Divide warm duck meat, walnuts, and figs, between the salad plates.

Make the dressing: puree figs, shallot, and vinegar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add walnut oil, blend on low speed to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Oakland, CA

Grilled corn polenta


The summer version of the favorite comfort food is made with fresh corn, and it’s a completely different animal. It’s fresh, sweet, tender, a little crunchy, smells like magic, and, in my case, it’s also smoky – instead of cooking the corn for the polenta on the stove, as many recipes suggest, I choose to grill it on the cob. Because it’s still summer (MB, take notice).


Todays farmers market only had white corn, so this is what I made my polenta with. I suppose it could be even better made with yellow corn, although it’s hard to imagine something better.

Allow 2 corn cobs per serving.


Preheat the grill for direct grilling. Remove the husks and as much silk as you can from the corn, rub with salt and olive oil. Grill, turning a few times, until tender and slightly charred on all sides. Let cool.


Working over a large bowl, cut off the kernels off the cob with a small sharp knife. Then run the back of the knife along the cob to get what’s left. Make sure you go from the stem end to the tip, going in the opposite direction can create a splash of flying corn!


Puree in blender. As a lucky owner of a Vitamix blender, I just dropped the corn into the blender cup and whizzed it to the desired consistency. My challenge was not to over-blend and still have some texture. In fact, I saved a handful of whole kernels to add to the polenta after blending. And I didn’t even need to reheat the polenta – the blender did the job. if you are using a normal blender without super powers, you may want to add a little water (or milk), to make blending easier, then to cook the polenta for 10-15 minutes, to evaporate the water and to reheat the polenta.


Here it is, served with basil pesto, poached quail eggs, and parmesan.


Other topping ideas:
Fresh berries (breakfast?)
Fire-roasted peppers and pine nuts
Fresh tomato sauce
Meatballs and tomato sauce
Ragu
Grilled baby octopus
Grilled eggplant and feta
Herbed goat cheese
Grilled prawns, herb butter
Sautéed mushrooms
Grilled chicken
Whatever your heart desires

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Pappardelle with rabbit ragu, spring version


Because it’s spring, all the favorite dishes take on the green aspect and the wonderful lightness of the fresh spring produce.

A few months ago I posted a recipe for home-made pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms, a winter comfort food. Here is the same pasta dish, dressed up for the spring. The earthy dried mushrooms are out; the dish is made light and cheerful by adding fresh shelled peas and pea greens. I used spring onions and green garlic in place of regular, dried, onions and garlic, just because I can – both onions and garlic are going strong in the garden.


Pappardelle with rabbit ragu and green peas

Serves 6

For the pappardelle:
1 cup “00” or all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
16 quail eggs, or 4 medium chicken eggs

For the rabbit ragu:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Salt, pepper
1 rabbit, cut up
2 large spring onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 green garlic, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 jar passatta, or 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, or 6 very ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken (or rabbit) stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 small sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

1 small bunch pea greens, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup shelled english peas

Shaved Parmesan

Make the pasta:

Combine the flours in a large bowl, make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well, mix to incorporate and make a stiff but still pliable dough. If the dough is too wet, add more semolina. If it’s too stiff to knead, add a few drops of water. Knead for 5-7 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30-60 minutes. Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as possible (on most pasta machines, second to last setting). Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Dust with semolina, hang over a back of a chair, or on a pasta-drying rack to dry a little.

Make the rabbit ragu:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the flour in a plastic bag, season with salt and pepper. Put the rabbit pieces into the bag, toss to cover, remove from bag, shake off the excess flour, sauté until golden on both sides, 10-15 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic to the pan. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add passatta, or tomatoes with their juice, wine, and the stock to the pan. Using a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula, scrape all the golden pieces from the bottom and the sides of the pan to incorporate into the liquid.

Arrange the rabbit pieces in a large Dutch oven or a slow-cooker pan. Pour the vegetable, stock, and wine mixture on top. Cook on the stovetop, at a low simmer, 3 hours, or in a slow cooker, at a low setting, 6 hours or overnight.

Remove the meat from the ragu, take the meat off the bones, discard the bones. Using two forks, shred some of the meat. Return the meat to the ragu.

Serve:

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until almost al dente, 1-2 minutes. Add peas and pea greens, cook another minute. Remove, drain, place in individual pasta bowls. Top with rabbit ragu, garnish with shaved Parmesan.

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My Italy

My Italy doesn’t have anything to do with the sandy beaches, vineyards on sunny slopes, Caravaggio’s Bacchus or Brulov’s Italian Midday, tourist crowds in Rome and the carnival in Venice, vine-ripe tomatoes and vacations on a Tuscan farm. I may see this sunny Italy some other time. For now, my Italy is icy winding mountain roads, an alpine village, enveloped in a blizzard, valleys so deep and mountains so high that it makes you wonder what people thought of the outside world before car and air travel; endless pistes and shoulder-deep powder off-piste; piercing icy wind in the streets of Torino; ancient castles on mountaintops; hot wine and a laconic, thin and crisp pizza with nothing more than cheese and tomato sauce on top, in front of the fire in a mountain hotel; my family on skis and snowboards making it down in time for dinner at our cabin; my sister-in-law and I taking turns shaving the fennel for the salad real thin with my folding knife. I like my Italy.


Borlotti beans and shaved fennel salad

The bean recipe will yield more cooked beans than you’ll need for the salad. Store the extra beans in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to a week, serve as a side dish to meat and poultry, over pasta, or toss with sautéed sausages or ham and some greens


Serves 6

2 cups dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig sage
Salt

2 large fennel bulbs
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper
Shaved Parmesan

Cook the beans:

Cover the beans with 1 gallon of water; let sit 4-6 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Cover with 1 gallon of fresh water, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low/medium low to maintain a slow simmer. Add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and sage. Cook until almost tender, 30-50 minutes, depending on the quality and age of the beans. Salt liberally (taste the water, not the beans; it should be a little too salty). Finish cooking until the beans are tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove vegetables and herbs, let the beans cool in their cooking liquid.


Assemble the salad:

Allow about 1/2 cup cooked beans per serving. Rinse the beans, arrange on the salad plates. Trim the fronds and stalks from the fennel bulbs (reserve a few fronds for garnish). Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, shave the fennel paper-thin, starting at the top, so that the root end holds the bulb together as you cut it. Toss fennel with the lemon juice. Arrange fennel on top of the beans, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil, garnish with shaved Parmesan and the reserved fennel fronds.


Pappardelle with rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms

Serves 6

For the pappardelle:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
16 quail eggs, or 4 medium chicken eggs

For the rabbit ragu:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Salt, pepper
1 rabbit, cut up
1 large onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
3 large cloves garlic
1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, or 6 very ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken (or rabbit) stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 small sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt

Shaved Parmesan
Parsley leaves, for garnish

Make the pasta:

Combine the flours in a large bowl, make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well, mix to incorporate and make a stiff but still pliable dough. If the dough is too wet, add more semolina. If it’s too stiff to knead, add a few drops of water. Knead for 5-7 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30-60 minutes. Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as possible. Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Dust with semolina, hang over a back of a chair, or on a pasta-drying rack to dry a little.

Make the rabbit ragu:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the flour in a plastic bag, season with salt and pepper. Put the rabbit pieces into the bag, toss to cover, remove from bag, shake off the excess flour, sauté until golden on both sides, 10-15 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic to the pan. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, with their juice, wine, and the stock to the pan. Using a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula, scrape all the golden pieces from the bottom and the sides of the pan to incorporate into the liquid.

Arrange the rabbit pieces in a large Dutch oven or a slow-cooker pan. Pour the vegetable, stock, and wine mixture on top. Cook on the stovetop, at a low simmer, 3 hours, or in a slow cooker, at a low setting, 6 hours or overnight.

Remove the meat from the ragu, take the meat off the bones, discard the bones. Using two forks, shred some of the meat. Return the meat to the ragu.

Cook the mushrooms:

Put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with hot water, let sit until softened, 15-20 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms dry (strain and reserve the soaking liquid for another use, or add it to the ragu). Heat the oil on a small pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt, sauté until the mushrooms are dry and golden.

Serve:

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until a’l dente, 2-3 minutes. Remove, drain, place in individual pasta bowls. Top with rabbit ragu and sautéed mushrooms, garnish with shaved Parmesan and parsley.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

BBQ pulled pork

This post is for my brother Paul, it continues the discussion that we had last week.

On our family reunion in the Italian Alps last week, my brother and I started talking about cooking pork, and I tried to explain pork barbecue. He thought that barbecue was the same thing as grill! Yes, American BBQ is kind of like grilling, cooking slowly over wood coals; but we also call a BBQ anything seasoned with a BBQ sauce, even if it’s not cooked over the coals. And what they call a BBQ sauce is different in different parts of the country. Now try to explain this to a European.


The BBQ pork that I made today was actually cooked in the oven, then shredded and seasoned with a purchased sauce. My favorite BBQ sauce is the “SFQ”, an artisan-made San Francisco style sauce, but others work well, too. I gave up on making my own BBQ sauce when the first recipe that I pulled from the Internet started with “2 cups sugar”. Wow, this is as much sugar as I use for my morning coffee in 3 month! I went into denial, and now i just go out and buy a prepared sauce. I try not to read the labels on them.


BBQ pulled pork
Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt

1 large onion, sliced
4 large cloves garlic

1 cup prepared BBQ sauce of your choice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and spices. Cook, turning (in batches, if necessary), until browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes.

Transfer pork to a covered braising pan, add onion and garlic, and enough water to cover the meat half-way. Cover, cook in the oven until very tender, 2-3 hours.

Shred the meat using two forks, season with the BBQ sauce. Serve with cornbread, or on buns, or over beans or pasta.


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Small organic menu today, plus the simplest, tastiest soup recipe


Curried cauliflower soup

Salmon cakes, homemade quail egg and olivemayonnaise
Sautéed butternut squash

Baked French lentils with chicken sausage
Zucchini ribbon salad

Chicken roasted with fennel and apples
Potato and fennel gratin


This soup, oh, this soup! It has five ingredients (I’m not counting water and salt), is vegan, healthy, creamy without added cream, has about 45 Kcal per serving, comes together in about 30 minutes, and is everyone’s favorite. For more complex and exotic flavor, use 1-2 cups of coconut milk instead of some water, but keep in mind that this will increase the calorie count.

Use either mild or hot curry powder, your preference – it’s the curry aroma, not the heat, that makes the cauliflower shine. It feels refreshing not having to separate cauliflower into florets, or to cut it into even-thickness “steaks”. Just hack it into pieces to fit into the pot. Include some stem and the fresh-looking inner leaves – it all will be pureed in the end.

Refrigerate the leftovers, the soup will be even better the next day.

Curried cauliflower soup
Makes a lot
2 Tbsp mild olive oil, or coconut oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 heaping tsp yellow curry powder
2 large white cauliflower heads, stemmed and cut into chunks
Water to cover
Salt

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and curry powder. Cook, stirring, until the onions are tender but not browned, 8-10 minutes. Add cauliflower and water to cover. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, decrease heat to maintain slow simmer, simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, 20-25 minutes. Puree in a blender, add salt to taste. Enjoy!

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Location:Menlo Park, CA

Garden herbs: Chervil


Chervil is of the classic fine herbes (the others are parsley, tarragon, and chives); mild anice flavor. Likes full sun and a lot of water. Chervil is an annual plant that will self-seed if the conditions are right. Use the delicate leaves and flowers in salads and sauces.

Omelette with fine herbs
Serves 1
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 large chicken eggs, or 10 quail eggs
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 Tbsp chopped chervil
1/2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
Salt, pepper

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a small non-stick or cast iron pan. Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl until well combined but not foaming, about 20 strokes. Pour eggs into the pan. When the bottom of the pan is set, add the herbs, season with salt and pepper, tilt the pan, and fold the omelette over in two. Cook 1-2 minutes more, until the desired doneness. Serve at once.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Russian food. Pelmeni

I am moving the post about this very wintery dish to the top of my blog now, in the middle of the summer, for my friend B. from Terra Linda Community Pool, who tried the “Russian ravioli” years ago in a Russian restaurant in San Francisco, and now wants to try making them herself. Enjoy!


These pot-stickers probably came to Siberia from China. Then they spread all over Russia, and became a favorite winter food. If the temperatures stay consistently below freezing for 3-4 month, you can invest into making a few hundreds pot-stickers, freeze them outside, put them in a bag, and hang it outside of the window, to be cooked as needed. They cook from frozen in about ten minutes. They are economical, easy to cook, and oh, so tasty! Shaping them is labor-intensive, but if you live in a region with freezing winters, or in a house with a large freezer, you only need to make them once a year.


In Siberia, they make pelmeni with all types of filling: mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, grains, fish, meat, poultry, or any combinations. In Moscow, where I grew up, pelmeni are always filled with mixed meats, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced onion. The usual filling is half ground beef (not too lean) and half pork. Whenever we had venison, we would always mix ground venison into pelmeni filling (1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 venison)

In my family, we would spend the afternoon before the New Years Eve making pelmeni. Mom made the filling, dad rolled out the dough, and we all shaped. The first hundred or so would go on our holiday table, the rest froze on all available surfaces out on the balcony, for winter dinners to come. We would put a whole peppercorn into one of the pot-stickers. The lucky recipient could make a wish that will come true in the new year.

In California, I like to make pelmeni for our Tahoe ski trips. After a day of skiing, they cook fast, and they taste great! Rolling out the dough is physically demanding. My dad (who is very good at it) being 9000 miles away and my boyfriend not being part of the culture, I replace them both with my pasta machine, on it’s thinnest, ravioli setting. I then cut out dough circles with a 3-inch round cutter. A glass with a thin edge, or a cut tin can can do fine. Pelmeni should be a little larger than ravioli, but smaller than most Chinese potstickers, about 2 inches across.

Serve pelmeni in beef stock with a little white wine vinegar, straight with butter and
a lot of fresh ground black pepper, with sour cream with minced garlic and scallion, or even with mayonnaise!


Pelmeni
Makes about 200, serves 10-12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2cup water

for the filling:
1.5 pound mixed ground meats (3/4 pound beef and 3/4 pound pork; or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound pork, 1/2 pound venison)
1 large onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1 (generous) tsp fresh ground black pepper

Make the dough: sift flour into a large bowl. Mix in salt. Make a well in the center. Pour egg and water in. Mix, gradually incorporating the flour from the sides, to make very stiff dough, knead. At first it will look like it’s too dry and not coming together. Do not despair, keep kneading. If after five minutes of kneading it’s still not coming together, add a few drops of water, repeat (you can skip the gym that day). Cover with plastic, let rest 30 minutes.

Make the filling: combine ground meats, onion, season with salt and pepper, mix well.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible, using a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, of a pasta machine. Cut out 3-inch circles. Put together the leftovers, and roll out again.

Place about 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch the edges together tight. Connect the corners to make a neat ring. Place on a floured plate or cutting board. Repeat 199 times, or so. Freeze. Put in ziplock bags, keep in the freezer for up to 6 month.

To cook: in a large pan bring water to boil over high heat. Add frozen pelmeni, bring back to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook until pelmeni float to the surface, 5-10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.


Serve with:
– sour cream and black pepper
– sour cream + minced garlic + minced parsley or scallion
– white wine vinegar and fresh ground black pepper
– beef stock + dash of white wine vinegar
– melted butter + a lot of fresh ground black pepper
– 1 cup sour cream blended with 1 cooked carrot and 2 minced garlic cloves
– (I didn’t say this) mayonnaise

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Garden herbs: Borage


Borage is really easy to grow: it’s an annual, but once in your garden, it will self-seed and come up every year. It loves sun and water; it’s pretty indifferent to the soil quality.
 


Young leaves and striking bright blue star-shaped flowers are used in salads, for ravioli stuffing, and as a garnish; mild cucumber flavor.
 


Goat cheese rolled with herbs and flowers
 Makes 12 appetizers
 
 12 ounce goat cheese log, at room temperature
 12 borage flowers
 12 mustard flowers
 1 Tbsp chopped chives, plus some chive flowers, broken up
 1 Tbsp chopped chervil
 Salt, pepper
 
 Cut 12 squares of plastic wrap, approximately 6×6 inches. Divide clovers and herbs between the plastic squares. Cut the goat cheese into 12 pieces, place each piece over the herbs and flowers, season with salt and pepper, wrap the plastic around the cheese, refrigerate until ready to use. Before serving, unwrap the cheese, place over salad or on toasts, drizzle with good olive oil. The cheese keeps refrigerated 2-3 days.
 
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Garden herbs: Bay

Bay is one of the easiest herbs to grow in California. It’s a perennial shrub that does very well in any kind of soil, doesn’t require a lot of water or fertilizer. All it needs is sunshine.


For all your soups and stews, this is the savory herb that adds complexity and brings it all together.

There are two kinds of bay: the Mediterranean (noble) laurel, and California bay. Both trees grow everywhere in the Northern California. The Mediterranean laurel, most often used in cooking, has slightly pointed rounded leaves, peppercorn-size berries, and strong but delicate smell. The California Bay, often found growing wild in parks, has elongated leaves, walnut-size berries, and very strong, sweet and pungent, up-in-your-face smell. It can be used in soup and stews as well, but be careful to remove it after 10-15 minutes, or you’ll end up with a laurel soup, it’s this strong!

Chicken stock

Homemade chicken stock makes the house smell good, and it cannot be replaced with store-bought chicken broth in the recipes for clear soups, or, in fact, anything, soups, stews, sauces, whatever.

The best chicken to use for a flavorful, clear, inexpensive homemade chicken stock is a mature hen (“stewing chicken”) that Asian grocery stores sell for next to nothing. Some farmers markets have whole chickens with head and feet on – these are even better. The goal is to get a lot of connective tissue that adds body to the stock. As an alternative, use chicken backs that are left over from the whole chickens that you cut up for roasting or frying, or buy at Whole Foods real cheap; or even leftover roast chickens, supplemented with chicken feet and necks, sold separately.

For the aromatic vegetables, use fresh clean trimmings from the vegetables that you used for other dishes – cut carrots for a salad, put the carrot cores in the stock; braise fennel and leeks, use the green parts in the stock; use the large outer cloves of garlic for a sauce, save the inner cloves, unpeeled, for the stock; etc.

Makes about 4 quarts

1 whole chicken, preferably with head and feet, large chunks of fat removed, liver and gizzards removed, cut up
or
3 chicken backs, plus any chicken necks and feet you can get
or
2 roast chicken carcasses and bones, plus some necks and feet
Cold water to cover
1 large onion, peeled, halved
2 ribs celery, cut into large chunks, or trimmings from a bunch of celery
2 carrots, cut into large chunks, or equal amount of leftoverp carrot cores and trimmings, chopped
1 small whole fennel, or equal amount of fennel tops, chopped
2 medium leeks, or green tops from 4 leeks, chopped
1 bunch of parsley stems, or one whole parsley plant
3 sprigs thyme
15 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Put chicken in a large stockpot, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Skim all the foam that floats to the top, discard. Add onion, celery, carrots, fennel, leeks, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer (a bubble breaks the surface every second). Simmer for 4 hours. Laddle the stock through a sieve into a clean pot; discard the solids. Refrigerate the stock for 5 days, or freeze in an air-tight container for up to 4 months.

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