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Posts Tagged ‘Eat Local’

This is my last Dark Days post.  I think a few die hards might be going one more week but this will be it for me.  So, I wanted to go out with a bang.  On Saturday at the farmers market I picked up some gorgeous asparagus.

and I got some of these…chanterelles.

I decided to make a savory bread pudding.  There’s a few of these recipes floating around and all winter I had in my head that I’d make a butternut squash one.  That never happened, so this is the spring version.  Because I blew all my cash on those chanterelles, I wasn’t able to get my cheese at the farmers market.  So I stopped by the grocery store on the way home in search of local cheese.  They had an aged, nutty goat cheese from Cypress Grove, which is in Northern California.  I  thought would be lovely.  Except now, I just went to their site to get the name of the cheese, only to learn that this particular cheese is made in Europe for Cypress Grove.  Gahhhh.  If I had known that, I would have just gone for gruyere.  Oh well, it was just four ounces.

This all came together really easily.  Nothing here is too precise and I think it’s fairly hard to screw up.  Just stale bread, a custard batter, cheese, and vegetables.  Simple and hearty.

Asparagus and Mushroom Bread Pudding
Recipe inspired by Epicurious and 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
1 1-pound loaf  bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces.  I used Acme’s pain au levain, an earthy sourdough type of bread.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shallot, leek, or spring onion, thinly sliced
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk (I used one cup skim and one cup half and half because that’s what was in my fridge)
1-2 cups finely grated cheese, idealy gruyere or some aged, nutty cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

 So warm and hearty and satisfying.  We drank a lovely Sonoma chardonnay with it.  Perfect early spring dinner. 

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Last night was a late night.  We were out celebrating friends’ engagement and I woke up this morning starving.  Granola and yogurt didn’t really cut it, so when I was at the farmers’ market, I went a little crazy.  In my mad frenzy to find things to make the hunger go away, I grabbed some tortillas from Primavera and some raw milk cheddar from Spring Hill Farms.  Primavera makes these amazing white cheddar and pumpkin tamales, so I wanted to try to recreate that flavor.  And I knew from my chorizo and sweet potato tacos that their tortillas were delicious. I had  half a butternut squash in the fridge left over from the coleslaw, so my lunch was sounding pretty good in my head.  Some good looking avocados and citrus fruit were out, so those went into my backpack as well.

To make the quesadillas, I just roasted some 1 inch cubes of butternut squash, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, at 425 for about 25 minutes.  Mashed that up and spread it on a tortilla.  Topped it with some grated cheese and another tortilla and cooked it up in a skillet for a few minutes on each side.

For the salad, I diced an avocado and segmented a pink grapefruit and a blood orange.  Toss those up with a bit of salt and pepper, and lunch was ready.

 

When I was finally able to eat it, I was a happy, happy girl.

 

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This week was unusually hectic and I’ve been feeling uninspired. I’m sure the Dark Days bloggers in more snowy areas are probably rolling their eyes at me right now, but the farmers’ markets right now seem to be having a bit of a seasonal identity crisis.  There’s still a lot of winter squash, apples, and chard, which are starting to bore me.  There’s asparagus and avocados, but there’s no peas or strawberries or rhubarb or other things that signify spring.   I did buy some asparagus last weekend and roasted that to eat with my leftover pork on Monday night.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, very little cooking happened.  There were a couple omelettes and some reheated frozen leftovers.  So, rather than write a post about an omelet, I’m going to write about my delicious restaurant visit on Friday night.

Gather is a new restaurant in Berkeley.   Their vision is very consistent with the values the Dark Days challenge.  The feature local, sustainably grown ingredients and have an entirely local wine list.  According to this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, even a lot of other locavore-type restaurants eschew local wines for whatever reason, which strikes me as odd, particularly in Northern California, where the local wine is so good.  And they stock an entirely organic bar.

The food was amazing.   I wanted everything on the menu.  My husband and I ended up split three dishes – a “small plate” of squid with black rice, the vegan charcuterie plate, and a  pizza.  It was a ton of food and every bite was delicious.  The vegan charcuterie plate was probably one of the most interesting things I’ve ever eaten – five little creative vegetable spreads, and each was excellent.  My favorites were the celeriac-potato-olive salad and the trio of beets with horseradish.  I liked the latter so much I’d love to track down some fresh horseradish to try to recreate it.  

I was taking pictures on my iPhone and they weren’t coming out, so I gave up with attempts to capture the food.  The rest of the meal was just as great though.  The squid dish was my husband’s favorite – spicy and rich, and it was nice to see squid on a menu and not have it be deep fried.  Finally, the pizza.  It was topped with goat meat, something I had never had before.  It was really good, and I particularly enjoyed the little bit of fresh mint that was sprinkled across it, which really brightened up an otherwise earthy dish.   All and all, a pretty spectacular meal. 

And, I feel inspired to do more local cooking now and finish out the last few weeks of the challenge.

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This week, I prepared another piece of meat from my meat CSA through Marin Sun Farms – a boneless leg of pork.  Not something I’ve ever eaten before, as apparently the vast majority of this cut goes to making hams.    There wasn’t even any useful instructions in the Joy of Cooking.  The series of tubes to the rescue! I discovered that it’s about 30 minutes at 350 for every pound, until it hits around 160.  Easy peasy.

I marinated it in this marinade from the December 2008 Food and Wine, using local citrus, rosemary, and bay, and not local fennel seeds and juniper berries.  I’ve made this marinade it a few times for pork roasts and rarely have every single ingredient and it doesn’t really matter.   Zest a couple oranges and a couple lemons, juice them and whisk in some olive oil.  For herbs, crush some fennel seed and juniper berries in a mortar and pestle, add in a few springs of rosemary and some bay leaves, and you are good to go.  If you don’t have a few of these things – no worries.  It’s still going to be amazing.  Let it marinate overnight, flip it over a couple times, and wipe the meat dry just before cooking.  

The leg needed to be covered for the first half hour or so, so it didn’t dry out.  All and all, the 2.5 pound roast took about an hour and 10 minutes to hit 155, then I let it rest under some tin foil for about 5-10 minutes, which got it just perfect.
 

I picked up some cute little potatoes at the farmers market, so I tossed them in some olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and put them in the pan with the pork to roast.  I made a quick pan sauce with the drippings, a pat of butter, and a bit of white wine.  And along side of it, a salad of radicchio, walnuts, and blood orange infused olive oil from Stonehouse here in Berkeley.  My walnuts were not local , or maybe they were, as the bag from Trader Joe’s says “California Walnuts” on it.  Not bad.

While prepping everything, it was all starting to look pretty delicious and seemed like a good time to open up something good.  My “Hello Vino” app for my iPhone suggested viognier, gerwurztraminer, or zinfandel to go with fruity pork dishes.  No viognier or gerwurtz were on hand, but this is Northern California, so zins are plentiful chez arugulove.  Hello Vino even suggested a zin from Mazzocco, a lovely little vineyard in Healdsburg which we visited in November with friends.  So, we happened to have a bottle of their zin on hand, making the choice very easy.  What luck!

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A couple weeks ago, I signed up for a meat CSA program through Marin Sun Farms.  Once a month, we’ll get a random assortment of braising and roasting cuts and ground meat from grass fed, pasture raised, humanely treated animals.   Our first shipment arrived February 11 and the meat looked amazing.  We celebrated Valentine’s day by cooking up these beef back ribs, which were included in our first shipment.

To go with it,  I decided to try my hand at homemade pasta.  This was the first time I’ve made homemade pasta and it was much, much simpler than I ever imagined.  I’ve got a Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment, bought ages ago with a William Sonoma gift card.  It had languished unused in the box for over a year, but I’m happy to report that its maiden voyage was a smooth one.  I used the recipe that came with the roller and I had no problems whatsoever.   I bought some beautiful mushrooms at the farmers market, but unfortunately, the name of them escapes me.  I sauted those with kale and served that with the beef over the pasta.  Fantastic, especially with a nice bottle of cabernet from Jessup Cellars in Napa.

I didn’t have time this week to prepare a completely local meal, so I’m counting this as my Dark Days contribution for the week.  Everything here is local, except for the flour I used in my pasta.  I realize that’s a pretty substantial exception, so this isn’t the my best work.  But, it is what it is.  For next year’s challenge, I’ll hopefully own a car and I can drive around in search of local flour.  Until then, I’ll just count my local blood, sweat and tears in making it myself.

Braised Beef Back Ribs with Mushrooms and Kale
Recipe by me

Ingredients
1.5-3 pounds of beef back ribs
4 cups of red wine
3 or 4 carrots, sliced in three inch chunks
One onion, cut into large chunks
A few sprigs of thyme
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of Tuscan kale, thick stems removed, and chopped into 1 inch ribbons
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon of butter
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
1 pound of pasta, preferably a wide, flat noodle such as pappardelle

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a dutch oven or oven safe pan, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Place the rack of ribs in and brown all over, about 5 minutes.  Add about 3 cups of wine, the carrots, onions, and a few sprigs of thyme.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and put in the oven for about 1.5 hours, checking after an hour or so to see if more liquid is needed, and if so, add a bit more wine or some water. 

When the meat seems tender, take the pot out of the oven, remove the meat, cover, and set aside.  Remove the thyme springs.  Transfer the vegetables and cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, pureeing until smooth.  Add a little more wine if the mixture seems too thick. 

Pour the liquid back in the dutch oven and put the meat on top.  Cover again and put it back in the oven.  If the meat is done enough for you, just set it on warm.  Otherwise, keep it at 325 or so until you are ready to eat.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter.  When the butter melts, add the diced shallot, and slowly cook until it begins to carmelize.  Add the kale, tossing to coat.  Add one cup of wine and cover.  Simmer over medium low for about 10 minutes, until kale starts to soften.  Add the sliced mushrooms, cover again, and continue to cook another five minutes or so.  Add salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta.  When draining, reserve a cup or so of the water. 

To put everything together, take the meat out of the oven and slice the ribs.  Add a bit of the pasta water to the vegetable puree if needed.  Toss the pasta with the kale and mushrooms, adding a bit of pasta water if needed.  Serve the pasta in bowls, with a rib and some vegetable puree spooned over it.

We cooked a pound of pasta because that’s what the recipe called for, but we only had three beef ribs.  So we just tossed the vegetable puree in with the rest of the pasta and ate it without the meat for leftovers.  But doubling the amount of meat would probably result in 6 hearty portions.

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A slightly more sophisticated looking dinner than last week, using very similar ingredients.

And, this soup rocked.  Butternut squash, pear, and turnip?  Yes, please.  I already had one standard butternut squash soup recipe, but now it has competition in the rotation.  You can definitely taste the pear in it, though the spicy turnip balances everything out, keeping it from being too sweet.  The recipe looks simple, and I was tempted to add some leeks or garlic or something.  I didn’t, and I found I didn’t need to.  It works perfectly just as it is.

The fancy floating pear was pretty easy to do, so try it out and impress your guests with your oh-so-Martha presentation.

On the side, a mix of mustard greens and salad greens.  I dressed it with olive oil and cider vinegar (not local), with a tiny splash of maple syrup (a local-to-them gift from family in Massachusetts).  The maple dressing was really good on the bitter, spicy mustard greens.

All and all, a delicious winter meal.

Pear and Autumn Vegetable Soup
Recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients
4 small Bartlett pears (about 6 ounces each), plus an additional larger pear to use for the garnish
1 sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 turnip (about 3 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sprig fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, white if you have it

Directions
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Cut the larger pear into paper thin pieces, using a mandoline or sharp knife.  Pick out the seeds and stem.  Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut 2 medium pears lengthwise into paper-thin slices.  Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake about 1 hour, or until the pears are dry.  Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Peal the remaining pears.  Halve lengthwise and core.  Add the pears, squash or pumpkin, and the turnip to a 4 quart stockpot with the sage and a teaspoon of salt.  Cover with water (at least 4 cups) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the sage.  Carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree in batches.   Return the soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper.   Serve with the dried pears as a garnish.

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I am embarrassed to be putting this picture up because it just is not an attractive meal.  But, this was my local meal for the week, and I’ve committed to talking about it.  So, let’s just get the ugly photo out of the way.

Yeah.  Sorry about that. 

It’s a butternut squash pancake with smoked cheddar cheese and braised dandelion greens with garlic and lemon.  All local ingredients. Other than that, I’ll spare you the details.  Let’s just say the pancake tasted a lot better than it looked.  The dandelion greens did not.

Finally, I must add that my wonderful husband is a trooper.  I felt so horrible putting such a hideous looking plate down before him, and he graciously ate it up with compliments, not complaints.  I don’t know if many people could be so supportive of my weird cooking attempts, so I’ll just say that he rocks.

I promise something more appetizing looking very soon.

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For this week’s Dark Days challenge, I tried out two new recipes.  The first comes from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, a really wonderful cookbook that a friend lent to me and I’ve been hoarding for way too long.  Deborah Madison was the genius behind the delicious goat cheese and leek tart, and this recipe for onion and smoked cheddar custard looked particularly delicious.  I really liked the finished product – for a vegetarian dish, it had an amazing meaty flavor.  Or, umami if you prefer the technical term.  The recipe calls for it to be baked in six 1/2 cup ramekins.  I used 4 one cup ramekins because that’s what I had and it seemed like a better size for one serving anyway. 

I served it with braised escarole, using a recipe from Tyler Florence.  Escarole isn’t really a vegetable I’m too familar with, but they were on full display at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I thought about a salad, but felt like experimenting and opted to cook it.  If you had told me that what was essentially boiled lettuce would taste good, I would have thought you were joking.  But, wow.  The recipe said it served four, but we had no problem finishing it off, it was that good.  Thank you, Tyler Florence. 

Just about everything here is local, with the exceptions being the flour in the custard, the oil, and the red pepper flakes.

Savory Custards with Carmelized Onion and Smoked Cheddar
Recipe by Deborah Madison, Local Flavors

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, plus butter for the ramekins
large yellow onions cut into a medium dice
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large market eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (2 % will taste fine) or light cream
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup finely grated smoked Cheddar cheese

Preparation
Heat a large skillet with the butter.  I didn’t have a large enough non-stick one, which is what the recipe recommended, so I used stainless steel.  Add the onions and mix well with the melted butter.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cover.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are very soft, about one hour.  During this time, you’ll need to give them a stir every 5-10 minutes.  I found I needed to add 1/4 cup of water a couple times during the cooking because they were starting to stick.  It could have been because I didn’t use a nonstick pan or because my stove runs hot.  In any event, just keep an eye on it, and if it’s starting to burn or stick, a good splash of water isn’t going to hurt them.  After an hour and the onions are nice and carmelized, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. 

Preheat the oven to 375.  Boil water for the baking dish.  Grease the ramekins.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk in the milk, nutmeg, flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a grating of pepper.  Split the onions and cheese among the ramekins and pour in the custard.  


Stir the contents of the ramekins to mix up the onions and cheese.  Put them in a baking dish and add the boiling water so that it comes up to at least an inch up the sides.  Bake them in the middle of the oven until golden and well set, about 50 minutes.  The tops should puff up a bit.  The recipe said that they shouldn’t brown but mine did.  

With the custards, I made the braised escarole.


Braised Escarole with Garlic and Lemon
Recipe by Tyler Florence

Ingredients
1 head escarole, about 1 pound
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/2 lemon, cut in thin slices
2 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
Pinch sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Break off the leaves of the escarole and wash them carefully.  They will likely be very dirty, so this might take a while.  Dry the leaves, and slice them crosswise into 1 1/2 wide ribbons.  

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and lemon slices.  Saute for a couple of minutes, until the lemon starts to get soft and the garlic gets golden. 

Add the escarole, sauteing it until it starts to wilt, about 2 minutes.  Add a sprinkle of sugar, salt, and pepper.   Add the water or broth and cover.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the escarole is tender.  I removed the lid around 18 minutes because there was a lot of liquid in the pot and I wanted to boil some of it off. 

I served it along side the custard with a couple slices of ciabatta from a local bakery to soak up the juices from the escarole.  So good!

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These ugly looking things are celery root.  I’ve never cooked with celery root, and not even sure if I’ve ever eaten it.  Nevertheless, this recipe for celery root soup has intrigued me ever since I saw it in Food and Wine last year.

I’m not  a huge fan of celery, mostly because it’s just stringy and weird.  When I cut the root open and discovered it smelled exactly like celery, I got a little nervous.  I wound up doctoring the recipe a bit to try to balance out the celery flavor.  Lucky for me, this soup was indeed good.  While celery root smells like celery, it tastes a little earthier and, even better, no weird strings.  I will definitely cook with it again.  The version below is my version.

The original recipe in Food and Wine suggested pairing it with clementine toasts.  I had picked up a bunch of satsuma mandarins at the farmers’ market, so I thought I’d try pulling it off.  The relish was really, really good.  Sort of like a marmalade-chutney type of spread.  However, segmenting satsumas is something I will never, ever do again.  Lots of work to produce about a teaspoon of segment from one mandarin.  Argh.  I used about seven of them, when the recipe recommended two, and made a giant mess in my kitchen.  So, while delicious, I recommend trying this with normal sized oranges.

Everything here is local, except for the mustard seeds.  The bread comes from Acme bakery, the wine from St. Supery in Napa, all produce comes from the farmers’ market, and the dairy from Clover Stornetta in Petaluma.

Celery Root Soup
Inspired by Food and Wine, original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2-3 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt, pepper, and parsley to serve

Directions
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes.  

Add the garlic and the white wine, scraping up any bits that have accumulated on the bottom.  Add the celery root, broth and water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the celery root is tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.  Return to the saucepan and stir in the cream.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

Mandarin Relish Toasts
Inspired by Food and Wine, original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients
2-8 firm clementines, mandarins, or oranges
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Toasted slices of bread

Directions
Remove the peel and white pith from the oranges.  Working over a skillet, cut between the membranes to release the sections and squeeze the juice from the membranes into the skillet.  It’s hard for me to estimate how many you’ll need.  It depends on the orange, your citrus segmenting skills, and how many toasts you want.  The relish is really good, so I recommend making a decent amount and aiming to have about 1/2 cup of segments plus juice in your pan.  

Add the shallot, vinegar and mustard seeds.  Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until most of the juice has evaporated and the fruit has started to break down, about 2 minutes.

Let the relish cool to room temperature.  Season with salt. Spread the relish over the toasts and serve with the soup.

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The challenge with relying on the farmers market is that you never know what you are going to get.  When I made my trip yesterday, it was my first in nearly a month and things had changed a little.  Some of the vendors that I rely on weren’t there and a few others were carrying a different mix of produce.  I had gone with the expectation that I’d make some sort of vegetable enchiladas with my favorite roasted tomatillo salsa.  Except no tomatillos or chilies were to be found yesterday.

So, I loaded up my backpack with a bunch of stuff and tried to think through a plan on my walk home.  A quick look in my Flavor Bible confirmed my suspicion that fennel and apple would taste nicely together and I set to work.
 

I relied on this recipe from Food & Wine in executing my vision.  The fennel sausage comes from The Fatted Calf and all the other produce comes from various vendors at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  The salad is a mix of arugula, radicchio, and delicious local walnuts, dressed with a lemon vinagrette (though my olive oil is not local).  While the cider is from the Farmers’ Market as well, the wine I used, admittedly, was purchased at Trader Joe’s, but hails from Healdsburg.

Braised Sausage with Fennel and Apple
Inspired by this recipe from Food and Wine

Ingredients
4 fennel sausages, approximately 1 pound total
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1-2 heads of fennel, thinly sliced.  Mine were quite small so I used two, but if you find a big one, it’s probably enough.
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 cup of cider
1/4 cup of dry white wine (or more cider, chicken stock, or even just water)
a pat of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Place the sausages in a large skillet.  Add a half cup of cider and a half cup or so of water…just enough so they are at least halfway covered, but not so much that they are completely covered.  Simmer on medium high heat for about 7-8 minutes or so.  Remove from pan, cover, and set aside.  At this point, there may still be some liquid in the pan, but either way, it’s OK.

Reduce heat to medium and add a pat of butter.  Add the leek and saute for a few minutes.  Add the wine and let that simmer, scraping up the carmelized bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the apples and fennel, and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.  When they start to soften, add the remaining cider.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for another minute or two, until it starts to reduce.

Add the sausage and any juices that are on the plate.  Cook for another minute or two, until the sausages are warmed up again, and you are ready to serve.

I garnished mine with a few fennel fronds just before serving.  I really liked the dish.  I’ve never been a big fennel fan, but I liked it here.  I think the apples made it sweet and the fennel cut the sweetness of the apple, so it didn’t taste sugary.  Great combo!

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