The Literate Chef

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Berry Compote

In Dessert, Recipes on October 31, 2011 at 6:57 AM

Mixed Berry Compote Topped with Fresh Whipped Cream

preparation time: active – 20 minutes; passive – several hours


6 oz. each of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
10 oz. strawberries
1 tbsp. of sugar
¼ cup of sweet Marsala wine
Heavy cream to taste


1.    Rinse and drain the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, place them in a mixing bowl.
2.    Hull the strawberries, rinse and drain them, slice them widthwise and add to the mixing bowl.
3.    Add the sugar and mix well.
4.    Add the Marsala and mix well.
5.    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the berries macerate at room temperature for several hours prior to serving.
6.    Serve with heavy cream as desired.

Please see: Sunday Chicken Dinner – No Leftovers!

Fingerling Potatoes Roasted with Rosemary

In Recipes, Vegetables on October 31, 2011 at 6:57 AM

preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time including parboiling 1 hour. serves 4


1 lb. of Fingerling Potatoes
2 tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary


1.    Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2.    Parboil potatoes for 15 minutes.
3.    Drain the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl.
4.    Pour in the olive oil, stir well, add salt and rosemary and stir again.
5.    Place potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, turning several times to brown evenly.

Please see: Sunday Chicken Dinner – No Leftovers!

Roasted Herbed Vegetables

In Recipes, Vegetables on October 31, 2011 at 6:56 AM

preparation time 20 minutes, cooking time 1 hour. serves 4


3 zucchinis, sliced ¼ inch thick
4 red peppers, remove seeds and cut into 1 inch squares
4 carrots, skin removed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 shallots, peeled left whole; if larger than a walnut, cut in half
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Spread out on cookie sheet.
  4. Roast 1 hour, tossing several times.

Please see: Sunday Chicken Dinner – No Leftovers!

Roasted Chicken with Tarragon and Lemon Zest

In Chicken, Meat, Recipes on October 31, 2011 at 6:56 AM

Serves 4


1 Bell & Evans roasting chicken, about 7 lbs.
4 tbsps. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 lemon
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black pepper
1 cup dry white wine


1.    Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
2.    Zest the lemon to obtain about 2 tablespoons of zest. Retain the lemon for step 6.
3.    Using a fork, blend the chopped tarragon and lemon zest into the softened butter.
4.    Starting above the cavity, gently slip one or two fingers between the skin and the meat of the chicken’s breast to lift the skin and create a pocket.
5.    Take ½ the butter mixture and gently slip it into the pocket on one side of the breast bone, then do the same on the other side, spread the butter mixture by smoothing over the skin.
6.    Slice the lemon in half and place it in the chicken cavity.
7.    Generously salt and pepper the chicken skin.
8.    Place it on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and roast for 25 minutes per pound (about 3 hours for a 7 pound chicken).
9.    About 90 minutes into the roasting, baste the chicken with the juices that have collected in the pan, pour the wine over the chicken and continue roasting for 30 minutes.
10.    Baste the chicken, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue roasting for 1 hour.
11.    Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, if it reads 175 degrees or more it is done.
12.    Remove the roasting pan from the oven, place the chicken on a platter and cover with foil, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
13.    Place the roasting pan on a stove top burner. Make a gravy by pouring the drippings from the roasting pan into a fat separator. Let the fat rise to the top, pour the drippings back into the pan, heat to a boil on low, whisk in several tablespoons of flour to thicken the gravy to your desired consistency. If too thick, add more wine and boil off the alcohol.

Serve with Roasted Herbed Vegetables and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

The vegetables and potatoes can both be cooked at the same, during the last hour that the chicken is roasting at 375 degrees, and the prep can be done while the chicken is in the early roasting stage.

Arneis, a crisp, flavorful, Piemontese white wine from the Roero goes great with this dish, as its hints of lemon are in perfect harmony with the flavors of the chicken.

Please see: Sunday Chicken Dinner – No Leftovers!

Sunday Chicken Dinner – No Leftovers!

In General Articles on October 31, 2011 at 6:55 AM

Last weekend, one of our daughters and her family came for a visit. As working parents with a toddler and an infant, she and her husband do not have a lot of time to prepare big meals. So when she expressed a desire for a Sunday chicken dinner, we willingly and lovingly headed off to the market to get the fixings: large roasting chicken, vegetables, potatoes and, of course, dessert.

We settled on a seven pound Bell & Evans organic chicken and a colorful medley of fresh vegetables, which we decided to roast in keeping with the autumn season.  Fingerling Potatoes, which are easy to prepare and have a great taste, were in stock so we chose them over Yukon Gold, which we frequently use, and Idaho and russet. Several herbs to enhance the chicken, vegetables and potatoes were obligatory, and for their healthful aspect, fresh berries for dessert. Preparing berries is quick and easy and seemed like a good counterpoint to all of the cooking required for the other dishes.

To accompany this autumnal feast we chilled a bottle of sparkling Crémant de Loire from the Loire Valley region of France, and to enrich the berries, a pint of heavy cream. We were so focused on cooking and eating this feast that I only remembered to take a photograph as we were clearing the table.

Here it is – No Leftovers!

No Leftovers!

The recipes for these delicious dishes can be found at:

•    Roasted Chicken with Tarragon & Lemon Zest
•    Roasted Herbed Vegetables
•    Fingerling Potatoes Roasted with Rosemary
•    Berry Compote

The beauty of this meal is that the vegetables and potatoes can both be cooked at the same, during the last hour that the chicken is roasting. and the prep for these two dishes can be done while the chicken is in the early roasting stage.

Papa’s Hearty Beef Stew a la Burgundy

In Beef, For Moms on the Go, Meat, Recipes, Stews on October 27, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Ready to Eat

Makes about 5 quarts-preparation time including stove-top browning is 1½hour. Total oven cooking time is 2½ hours. Please refer to A Hearty Stew for Those Chilly Autumn and Winter Nights for some preparation tips.


1 cup of flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5-6 lb. roast (bottom round is an excellent choice) cut into cubes of about 1¼ – 1½ inches
½ cup of canola oil
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cups of Pinot Noir or red Burgundy wine
1 quart of beef stock
2 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed to 1½ inches
24 pearl onions (about 1 lb.) outer skin peeled (see step 1 below)
1 16 oz, package of baby carrots
¼ cup of each of coarsely chopped fresh sage and fresh thyme
1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns, crushed
1¼ lbs. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, large caps halved or quartered
1 small (6 oz.) can tomato paste


1.    Prepare the onions – bring small pot of water to boil, blanch onions for 30 seconds, rinse and cool, cut off root end and peel outer skin layer.
2.    In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes, prepare the mushrooms and chop the herbs and garlic.
3.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4.    Add flour, salt and pepper to a gallon size Ziploc® bag.
5.    Add beef, about 10 pieces at a time, to bag and shake well to coat with flour.
6.    Heat canola oil in a large casserole, preferably enamel coated cast iron French or Dutch Oven.
7.    Add the floured beef cubes to the casserole and brown them in one layer without crowding, for 8 or so minutes on high heat, turning the cubes several times.

Browning the Beef

Fully Browned Beef

8.    Remove browned beef and set aside, add more beef cubes and continuing browning until all the beef is done. If beef sticks to the casserole, or the flour base begins to burn, add a bit more oil.
9.    Add the garlic and lightly brown in the remaining oil and fat.
10.    Add one cup of wine and with a spatula, deglaze the pot. Add a second cup of wine and continue deglazing.
11.    When the second cup of wine has boiled down for about 1 minute, return all of the meat to the casserole to coat it well. Reduce heat to medium.
12.    Add beef broth and stir well, cover and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, stir well, cover and place in the pre-heated oven for ½ hour.
13.    Add the remaining three cups of wine and the onions, stir well and return to oven covered for another ½ hour.
14.    Add the carrots, herbs and black pepper, stir well and return covered to the oven, for a third ½ hour.
15.    Add the mushrooms and return covered to the oven an additional ½ hour.
16.    Add the tomato paste and return to oven uncovered for a final half hour ½ hour.

The Finished Product

When ready to serve the stew, serve it with a crust baguette and a good red wine, such as a Brunello de Montalcino.

A Hearty Stew for Those Chilly Autumn and Winter Nights

In General Articles on October 27, 2011 at 11:09 AM

As the leafs cascade onto the lawn in a profusion of yellow, red and brown and the outdoor thermometer dips below 60 degrees, it is time to resurrect the cast iron Le Creuset Oval French Oven  from the basement and cook up a batch of stew. We invested in our 8 quart French Oven a number of years ago and it has served us very well over many years of stew making.

Although there are smaller French and Dutch ovens, we find that this size is right because if you are expending the time and effort to prepare a stew, you might as well make a big one. That way you can break it down into small portions, freeze them and have dinner made in advance for several wintry nights. This should appeal to ‘Moms on the Go’, as well as working singles and couples. Also, for some unfathomable reason, stews always seem to taste better after being re-heated. So go for the big French or Dutch oven.

Making a stew requires a fair amount of preparation time, as well as cooking time, so obviously should not be attempted for that evening’s meal. When my wife and I were both working outside of the home and raising our two daughters, we made our stews on a fall or winter weekend afternoon. Now that we both work from home, we can create one practically any day of the week.

There are a number of steps involved in preparing a stew, so it is a good idea to perform these up front, in order to keep the process moving right along. Of course if you have a sous chef nearby, dividing the labor will be even more expeditious. Steps such as: chopping the garlic and herbs, washing and quartering the potatoes, cleaning the mushrooms, and par-boiling and peeling the onions in advance, will serve to ease the job of making a stew.

Another labor saving step would be to buy the meat already cubed, but that usually is more expensive and you may not get the freshest and best cut of meat, which is we why we prefer to buy the whole piece and cut it ourselves. As the season progresses, we will be adding more stews to the recipe list. In the meantime, good cooking and good eating with Papa’s Hearty Beef Stew a la Burgundy.

Brussel Sprouts Roasted with Hazelnuts

In Recipes, Vegetables on October 25, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Roasted Brussel sprouts with Hazelnuts

(serves 2: preparation time 5 minutes; cooking time 25 minutes)


½ lb. of Brussel sprouts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ cup chopped, unsalted hazelnuts


1.    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2.    Trim off the stem ends of sprouts, as well as any yellow leaves.
3.    Rinse and dry the sprouts, and cut them in half lengthwise.
4.    Add cut sprouts to a mixing bowl.
5.    Add the other ingredients and toss well.
6.    Transfer to a cookie sheet with a raised edge, or a shallow roasting pan.
7.    Roast for approximately 25 minutes, turning once or twice to brown on all sides.

See Eat Your Brussel Sprouts for background information

Eat Your Brussel Sprouts! Mother Commanded

In General Articles on October 25, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Let’s face it, Brussel sprouts are good for you, but getting past the gag-inducing, cabbage smell is tough going. As with all cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale, Brussel sprouts are known to contain significant health benefits. But to obtain those benefits you have to eat them, as well as cook them properly beforehand.

My mother, being very health conscious, periodically tried to get us to eat Brussel sprouts. She would boil them and serve them with butter (ugh!), or boil them and serve them with onions and smothered in Del Monte tomato sauce (nice try, but it didn’t work!). Either way, the gag effect took hold for me as soon as she started boiling them. As a result, I could never get past the first taste. Poor Mom, she had good intentions, but didn’t know that boiling Brussel sprouts is probably the best way to destroy their nutritional value.

After reading several articles, skimming through various cookbooks, trying several techniques and listening to my daughter extol the virtues of roasted vegetables, I decided to try roasting Brussel sprouts with hazelnuts. The result proved to be delicious and, based on my readings, healthful. Please try Brussel Sprouts Roasted with Hazelnuts to see for yourself.

Insalata de Ceci

In Recipes, Salads, Vegetables on October 23, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Insalata de Ceci


4 cups of canned garbanzos (chick peas) – (two 15 oz. cans) drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped red onion (about ½ of a medium sized onion)
1 cup peeled, chopped cucumber (one whole medium cucumber)
4 tbsp. pesto sauce
2 tbsps. of fresh squeezed lemon juice
10 twists of freshly ground black pepper


1.    Place the beans, onion and cucumber in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir well.
2.    Add the pesto sauce and stir again.
3.    Add the lemon juice pepper and mix well.
4.    Let sit for several hours to allow the flavors to blend, cover and refrigerate.
5.    Serve chilled.

Please see Grandma Loved Ceci Beans for the background to this recipe.

Grandma Loved Ceci Beans

In General Articles on October 23, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Grandma, who crossed the Atlantic 101 years ago on the Principe di Piemonte, with three children aged 7 and younger, loved ceci beans (chech-ee), which are also known as chick peas and garbanzo beans. As a callow youth with an unsophisticated palate, I hated them. To me, they were mealy and dry and I never tasted them again until about 10 years ago, when I had a ceci-based soup at a restaurant in Vagliagli, in the Chianti district of Tuscany.  After that, I began to appreciate their texture, flavor and adaptability to a variety of uses. One such use is in Garbanzo Bean Soup.

Recently, I had occasion to have lunch with some friends at the Indian Road Café, in my old neighborhood of Inwood in northern Manhattan.  I ordered a delicious shrimp sandwich, which came with a side salad of chick peas dressed with pesto. Having some pesto sauce remaining from the batch of Uncle Fred’s Homemade Pesto Sauce that I had made several weeks ago, as well as several cans of garbanzos in the pantry, I had an epiphany and headed out to the market to pick up a red onion, cucumber and lemon. The first of two of those items were visible in the salad as well as the chick peas and pesto, but I had no idea about the lemon, it just seemed the right addition.

The serendipitous result was Insalata de Ceci, named in honor of Grandma, who I believe would have loved this dish. The moral of this tale is ‘Listen to your grandma, as she is always right!’

Uncle Fred’s Homemade Pesto Sauce

In Pasta, Recipes, Sauces on October 23, 2011 at 6:06 PM

(Makes about 2 cups of sauce)


4 cups of basil leaves (stems discarded) packed tightly
5 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely, about 1/3 cup
1 cup pignoli nuts
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for preserving
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


1.    Place chopped garlic and pine nuts in a food processor.
2.    Add the basil leaves and pulse-chop the ingredients, pausing after 10 pulses or so to push down the basil leaves with a spatula. Continue pulsing until all of the basil is chopped.
3.    Slowly add the olive oil while running the food processor.
4.    Scrape all of the ingredients from the sides with a spatula.
5.    Slowly add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and give it one or two quick pulses.
6.    Transfer the pesto sauce to a clean, pint-sized jar. When the pesto settles, slowly top it off with about ¼ inch of olive oil, which acts as a preservative air barrier and prevents the pesto from being exposed to air, turning brown and going bad. In this state it can be refrigerated for several weeks.


Angel Hair Pasta (Capellini) with Pesto Sauce

Capellini (Angel Hair Pasta)
•    1 cup of pesto sauce
•    1 lb. of Capellini
•    Cook pasta according to directions.
•    When pasta is cooked and before draining, remove 1 cup of pasta water, add it to a large bowl, drain and add pasta to the bowl and toss, add pesto sauce and mix well.
•    Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano – Reggiano.

Insalata de Ceci

Pollo con Pesto

Roasted Halibut with Tomato and Pesto

The Last of the Basil

In General Articles on October 23, 2011 at 6:05 PM

As summer winds down into the first full month of autumn, the last of the basil has been picked. The memory of summer has long since faded as the leaves begin their whirling descent to blanket the lawn with brown, red and gold. While the outside air smells of autumn, the kitchen air is redolent with the vestiges of summer, freshly picked basil.

The aroma of basil has always meant summer to me; summer on the Jersey Shore, and summer vacations on Cape Cod, where our first stop was to see Uncle Fred and Aunt Jo. On those latter occasions, not only did Fred provide us with our first night’s dinner, but also with a basil plant that he had carefully tended, and which lasted for the entire month of our vacation.

So with October in the wind a few weeks ago, we picked the leaves from the last of our basil plants and decided to extend summer for a few weeks more by making pesto with a recipe from Uncle Fred. For a brief history of pesto and its ancient method of preparation, before the invention of blenders and food processors, check out the article in this link to the foods of Liguria. Liguria is one of the western-most regions of Italy, it borders on the French Riviera and encompasses Genoa, San Remo, Portofino, and Cinque Terre.

Mediterranean Vegetable Spread

In Recipes, Vegetables on October 9, 2011 at 9:10 PM

Another use for leftover Ratatouille


  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 cups of leftover ratatouille


  1. Place sun-dried tomatoes with some of their oil in food processor and chop into a paste on ‘Pulse’.
  2. Add leftover ratatouille, 1 cup at a time, and continue ‘pulse’ processing until well blended with the sun-dried tomatoes into a paste.

Serve as hors d’oeuvre on thin slices of crusty Italian bread, or crackers, or in a cold antipasto combination plate.


In Recipes, Vegetables on October 8, 2011 at 12:10 AM

Ratatouille is one of those French dishes that many people have a difficult time pronouncing. However you pronounce it, it is delicious. A great vegetable stew that is best served at room temperature as side dish with any meat entree, such as Steak au Poivre or Lamb Chops.

The following recipe will produce about 4 quarts of ratatouille, I usually make a large batch, freeze the leftovers in individual portions  in plastic Zip-Lock bags, defrost then in the morning and eat them in the evening; so all of that up-front work is paid back for weeks to come. Or, if you prefer, you can easily cut the recipe in half.

(Preparation Time 75 minutes, cooking time 2 hours)


Ratatouille Ingredients

2 cups extra virgin olive oil
7 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
2 large eggplants, cubed (1 inch cubes)
6 medium onions, chopped coarsely
4 zucchini, cubed (1/2 inch cubes)
4 red peppers, seeded and cubed (1 inch cubes)
4 green peppers, seeded and cubed (1 inch cubes)
8 large ripe tomatoes, cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 cup of capers
2 cups of loosely packed basil, chopped
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar


1.    Heat 1&1/2 cups of the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat, add the garlic and sauté until soft but not browned. Add the eggplant in batches and sauté until it is cooked to a light brown color. With a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant to a large (12 qt.) stock pot.
2.    Add the onions to the pan and scraping up the eggplant and garlic bits–cook the onions until translucent, transfer them to the stock pot, stirring in with the eggplant.
3.    Add the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil to the pan; sauté the zucchini until slightly soft. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the stock pot, stirring it with the other vegetables.
4.    Add the peppers to the oil in the pan and sauté until soft. Transfer the peppers and any remaining liquid in the pan to the stock pot.
5.    Add the tomatoes and capers to the stock pot.
6.    Add the basil, chicken broth and vinegar to the stock pot, mixing all the ingredients well.
7.    Cook uncovered on a low flame for 2 hours.
8.    When cooked and slightly cooled, drain the vegetables from the liquid and refrigerate the ratatouille.
9.    Bring to room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving.

Finished Ratatouille

Note: Save the excess liquid to use as a base for Garbanzo Bean Soup.

Note: When you tire of eating the ratatouille you can use the remainder as the base for a delicious Mediterranean Vegetable Spread.

Fillet of Sole Stuffed with Crabmeat and Shrimp

In Fish, Recipes, Seafood on October 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

(Preparation time about 15 minutes, cooking time 8 minutes)


6 tbsps. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. crushed garlic
2 tbsps. chopped fresh oregano
1 cup of shredded crabmeat, about 8 oz.
1 cup chopped cooked shrimp, about 7 or 8 (1/4 lb.)
¼ cup Italian –flavored breadcrumbs
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. hot Hungarian paprika plus extra
4 fillets Grey Sole or any other firm, thin white fish such as Flounder, about ¼ lb each
¾ cup dry white wine


For the Crabmeat/Shrimp Stuffing:

1.    Melt 3 tbsps. of the butter in a small sauce pan on medium heat.
2.    Add the garlic and sauté lightly, do not let brown.
3.    Stir in the oregano.
4.    Add the shrimp & crabmeat.
5.    Stir in the breadcrumbs, celery seed and ½ teaspoon of paprika.
6.    Cook the mixture on medium for about 3 to 4 minutes to blend the flavors.

For the Stuffed Fillets:

Adding the stuffing

1.    Lay the fillets out on a cutting board, with the narrow end toward you.

2.    Spoon the stuffing onto the fillets, leaving about ¾ inch clear from either end.
3.    Gently roll up each fillet starting from the narrow end. Secure each roll with 2 toothpicks.

Rolled Fillets

4.    Sprinkle each roll with the additional paprika.
5.    Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter on high heat in a non-stick sauté pan with a cover.
6.    When the butter is bubbling, gently add the rolled fillets and reduce heat to medium.
7.    Saute the fillets on three sides, turning each fillet 1/3 of a turn after 1 minute, for a total of 3 minutes.
8.    Return heat to high, add the wine, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes more.

9.     Carefully transfer the fish to individual plates and spoon the remaining gravy and loose stuffing over each fillet.

Fillet of Sole Stuffed with Crabmeat & Shrimp

Serve with steamed asparagus, dressed with butter and lemon, and a dry white wine such as Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc.

Time to Get Back to Cooking and Posting

In General Articles on October 2, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Family, business and charitable work have been occupying our focus for the past two months, but now it is time to get back to cooking, writing and posting. The other night, to kick off the fall season,we decided to cook some fish inside the house, rather than on the grill. With no preconceived idea, other than indoor cooking, I visited our local fishmonger to see what was in that day’s catch.  The grey sole was fresh and looked good, so I bought four small fillets, each weighing about 1/4 pound.

Now, how to prepare it? Sole lends itself to many preparations, but I noted some Maine crab-meat in the case and thought that would make a good base for stuffing, and to add a little variety, maybe some shrimp. Since I did not feel like cleaning, deveining and cooking the shrimp myself, I ordered a 1/4 pound of the cooked shrimp.

Having made a decision on the fish and the base for the stuffing, the next step was to see what was in the pantry that could finish the dish. I knew that we had breadcrumbs, as well as wine in which to poach the fish, and that the refrigerator held the staples of lemon, butter, parsley and garlic, so after picking up a bunch of asparagus at the fruit and vegetable market I headed home.

The parsley in the refrigerator proved to be limp and flavorless, but all of the other ingredients were there. Looking around the garden, I saw that there was still some fresh oregano and thought that could substitute for the parsley. The spice rack revealed hot Hungarian paprika, which not only adds spice but color, and…celery seeds! I had never used celery seeds and have no idea why I had bought them in the first place, but I thought that they could nicely round out the stuffing and they did, as you will see after you have tried the quick and easy Fillet of Sole Stuffed with Crabmeat and Shrimp.

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