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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

C'est si Bon! Travel Tales: One of Our Teen-Chefs: Sam

I recently learned of the sudden passing of one of our dear Teen-Chefs, Sam Vincent. 

Sam was exuberant and passionate about Cooking!  

He joined us in Provence in 2005, and so loved it that he was invited 
the following summer to do a stage with Madeleine and Erick Vedel. 

Sam continued on the culinary path and was cooking in a restaurant near Berkeley, California. 

We will miss your smile and your charming allegiance to the kitchen.  

And Merci, Sam, Merci pour tout.

Join us on snapshot tour of our time with Sam. 

Following the photos is Erick Vedel's recipe for Soupe de Poisson

Watching Goats, Watching Cheese 

The Most Wonderful Fromagerie

Meatballs in the Style of Apicius

Coquille St Jacques in Arles

Aileen and the Dishes

Soupe de Poisson, To Be

Sam and the Fish

Stuffing the Vegetables

The Aioli, Madeleine, and Sam

Sunset Over the Camargue

Soupe de Poisson (from Marseille based on local fish)

for many of the Teen-Chefs, this was the first time that they had been invited to see and prepare such a variety of whole small and interesting fish.

preparation takes about an hour and a half, cooking also takes about an hour and half and in the end makes enough for 4 persons

for the fish:

4 cleaned scorpion fishes
4 cleaned stingfish
4 slices of conger
1kg cleaned john dory

6 potatoes
20 slices of bread
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper

for the soup:

1kg of rockfish
2 leeks
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
6 branches of parsley
6 stalks of anise
4 tomatoes
4 large spoonfuls of olive oil.
2 sheets of laurel
a piece of orange zest
1 cayenne pepper
2 knife points of saffron powder

for saffron and basil rouille:

2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon white wine
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 cup broth from soup or clam juice

to make soup
don’t scale the rockfish, simply wash them, gut the biggest ones. wash and cut the leeks. peel, wash, and chop the onions. 
peel and mash the garlic.

wash and drain the parsley and the anise, mash the tomatoes. put the vegetables, the olive oil, the laurel, the zest of orange, and the chilli in a stewpan. cook the preparation for 15 minutes. 

add the rockfish and season. 

keep on the fire for 15minutes, then add 3 liters of boiling water. 

cook it for ten more minutes.

remove the stalks of anise and the zest of orange after taking the stewpan off the fire.

press the rest in a vegetable masher, then add the saffron.

rectify the seasoning before serving.

peel, wash, and cut the potatoes into big cubes. cook the potatoes by covering them with as much soup as water in a large stewpan.
salt and pepper.

make the aioli in the mortar and pestle.

grill the slices of bread, then rub them with a clove of garlic.
to serve place the bread in a soup bowl and set aside.

boil the rest of the soup. 
put the fish inside starting with the tough-fleshed ones.

cook them on a soft cooking temperature for 6 to 10minutes. 
put the potatoes in a big plate, add the fish over them.

pour the “soupe de poisson” on the grilled bread in the soup bowl.

serve with the aioli in the mortar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Write With Me: "Recipe as a Poem" Challenge!

My friend, Jeremy Salamon, of Jeremy Cooks, called with a request. He asked if I would like to participate in a recipe poem challenge. Jeremy has been a summer intern for both Teen-Chef and Kid-Chef programs at C'est si Bon! for about five years now. His other "day" jobs include being a senior in Boca Raton, Florida, maintaining a blog that offers recipes, videos of cooking with friends, interviews he's done with Famous Chefs (think the likes of Jamie and Giada) and then there's his three to four day a week stint in the kitchen of a local French Restaurant. As if that wasn't enough, Jeremy is working on a Memoir that chronicles his dream of becoming a Chef; from age 9 (which he announced from the back seat of the car to his astonished parents) till he graduates and heads to the Culinary Institute of America. Needless to see Jeremy has already carved out 
quite a little Chef-dom of his own. 

Jeremy and Dorette, 2008

Both of us also being writers, I thought the Poem Challenge sounded like great fun. It might exemplify the crazy action in the kitchen. Writing recipes in the "cookbook linear" fashion requires the chef to primarily use one side of the brain to follow certain rules. Ingredients must appear in the order they are used, and steps must logically dole out and explain the how (and not as often the why, that must appear in the heading notes) of the cooking technique to be carried out. A lot of this writing recipes has changed over the thirty some years I have been a chef. One cannot use technique terms willy nilly because not as many people know what it means to saute

Jeremy at the ACF Student-Chef Competition in Atlanta, 2011

One important detail is that according to recipe writers; those people who test recipes, magazine article writer people or ghostwriters - who couldn't have fun with a story about a ghostwriter and a chef, but that's another story - they wince and complain that Chefs are the worst recipe writers in the world. That is true. 

But what if, as Jeremy proposed, a recipe was written like a poem? Each ingredient rhymes and folds intuitively towards the next step. And how could it not happen that the poem tells more than mere ingredients? Through the lines and rhymes, a story intertwines. Whether the story is inspired by imagination or a first hand experience. I was honored to be approached by Jeremy, and as often happened in the kitchen while we were cooking, that an idea becomes a delicious dish with no recipe in sight. 

Starting today, you (our loyal readers) can participate in the Recipe Rhyme challenge. By September 25th we are asking for a submission of your recipe in the form of a poem. Here are the guidelines

   Use as many words and stanzas as it takes
   It can be of any length
   The recipe can be yours, from a book, tv, or online
   It can be in the form of a traditional poem, haiku,soliloquy, sonnet, ballad, prose you name it!
   Please provide a title and your name
   If you are able to, we would love to see pictures along with the poem
   Measurements are not required. We should be able to interpret what your making.

You may submit your poem through email here at Planting Cabbages or at
Below is my example of a recipe rhyme. You can also find Jeremy's example on his blog as well.

The three most outstanding poems will be featured on both Planting Cabbages and JeremyCooks. Remember submissions are due September 25th so start your stoves and get rhyming!

If you have questions please feel free to email me or Jeremy.   

Shadow Snover

For Shadow, Who Loved Chutney on Meatloaf

Thought I would put them all in a pot
Turn on the heat and get what I got.
Alice said no, why don’t I come over?
It’ll be you and me and the Shadow of Snover.
Why we’ll have a fine time,
Making a chutney of ginger and apples and lime.

Up with the crack, we know it as dawn
Sprint from the house, across the lawn.
It’s darker than coffee, there’s got to be time
Alice is coming, but not before 9.
My plan is no secret, at least not to me.
I’d like to be done, by a quarter to three.
Done with the burbling, done with the bubbling,
Done with the canning, that part is so troubling.

One Apple, Many Leaves

Two fawns and a buck cross the stone patio. Boo.
Looking for grass and perhaps tomatoes x 2.

The door slides wide open. I enter the school
Without turning on the light, and trip over a stool
Perched on the shelves, only now waking,
Pots and bowls and vinegar, shaking.

Back to the house, back to the kitchen
My arms loaded down, while my nose starts an itchin’.

Too many things swirling about in my mind
Now what did I do with that ginger and lime?

My upturned apron turns them all out
"Only 8 twenty five," to my Shadow I shout.
Onto the counter goes allspice with lemons.
Mustard seeds, garlic and onions, oh heavens.

So Many Apples

My back to the window, so I can stay busy.
Fingers on lemons, can fingers get dizzy?
Halve all the limes, Off with their zest
“This mise is all wrong,” I sing to Shadow in jest.

But she only lay quiet, and carefully watching.
"What do you care, you are alone.
Without even a turkey, a ham or a bone."

"But Shadow!" I cried to my hound of reknown,
"There’s meatloaf for dinner, and rice that is brown."

She perked right up at the mention of meat
While the apple under my knife, escaped to my feet.
A paper towel flew to the cut oh so deep.

Alice where are you?” but there was no peep.

The deer looked up when to the school, back I went.
For aids of the band type, but you know what I meant.

A glove over my thumb, I’m a Tom Robbins cowgirl
Should I hit the road, go in search of a world
Where chutney is made only on Monday
With apples of Eve, and apples of Adam
And 50 more apples (still) than I can fathom
Apples with spots, apples with blotches
That quarter and core as easy as squashes.

Shadow lay back dreaming of dinner
While I got fat and she only got thinner.
Black Seeds from the cores getting lost in my hair,
In my nose and eyelashes, and everywhere
An earwig in the bowl makes me all twitchy,
It drops to the floor and gets squished in the kitchy.

Cayenne Peppers, Not in the Poem but in the Chutney 

The hand of ginger, all shiny and glossy
Says “now put me in.” Why are spices so bossy?

Just as the pestle grinds the coriander.
Who should to the kitchen, at long last just wander.

“Hey Alice” I cried – and the chutney so chimed,
My hound, Shadow, yawned, smiled, and added a rhyme.

Seared Chicken with Chutney and Okra, Over Sweet Potatoes

"How often do we make jam out of ginger
And spend the day chopping and topping off fingers
With band-aids while mustard seeds
Roll on the floor."
Not very often.
And not any more.

Sunset Over Lake Hogan on September 9

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Novel Review and Menu: Game of Secrets, Lobster and Pumpkin Ice Cream

Author, Dawn Tripp

Well, I absolutely love my friend, Dawn Tripp's newest novel, Game of Secrets. Her work, as always, opens to a world carefully crafted with elegance and sparseness and depth and, of course, an ethereal beauty. 

Dawn's latest work, Game of Secrets

There's a murder at the heart of it. A chilling thriller. The story of two older women, Ada and Jane, and their life in a small New England town, a weekly Game of Scrabble captures the scope of what might appear as an ordinary day - and yet takes us far beyond these borders as well. 

The elder Ada and her youngest son, Ray, live an ordinary life, much as we might think and do, and feel. And yet, they don't. The difficult secret they bear both expands and contracts their lives simultaneously.

Jane and her more difficult daughter, Marne, complete each other in an emotional puzzle. Marne, more than a little angry but not afraid to walk towards answers. These two offer such a lovely melange. How often do moments of our ordinary life escape because they are so tenuous. Escape may be only temporary as it is love in this case, between Marne and Ray, that brings the secrets and past moments forth to examine. 

The luxury of spending time in the landscape of Game of Secrets will nourish a parched row of lettuce. Game allows us to experience and heal, try on different perspectives; loss of a son, a life loved with and without regret. 

Following the theme of the board game of Scrabble, Ada and Jane fit together missing letters, words, even whole paragraphs, till the pieces of relationships and heartbreak -- in the end they blend, they do so wonderfully, with softness, into a gossamer being. 

Curls of Tangerine

I met Dawn some years ago at a Writing Workshop in Charlotte led by Fred Leebron. We connected over words, over language. A graduate of Harvard and a Mom to two young sons, it is really rewarding to champion her work.

Dawn talks about her first novel, Moon Tide and its reverberations to the most recent event of Hurricane Irene. 

On a Moon Tide

When Irene was chugging up the coast, when the NOAA forecasts started coming in that she would hit on a moon tide, I noticed how the conversation up here made a shift, comparing her to other storms, of our recent and more distant past.
In Westport, a small town on the Massachusetts coast, we take bets on whether a hurricane will strike these parts the way we take bets on whether the Red Sox can pull off a World Series.  We have hurricane preparedness seminars at the local high school. We have clear-eyed Yankee common sense around the steps to take if a major storm were headed toward us: haul our boats, fill tubs with water, board windows, move cars and family and valuables to higher ground. All the while knowing that an awareness of the destruction a hurricane can inflict, particularly one that strikes on a moon tide, is something you have to live through to grasp.
We don't have the frequency or intensity of hurricane strikes the way the Carolinas have it. But we've had our share of hits--Bob back in '91--where the power was down for 10 days, the bees were mad, fallen trees on houses, boats driven a mile up the marsh. There was Carol back in '54, and the Storm of '44. But it was the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, that shifted our New England thought to what is possible. That hurricane was the first that struck New England since 1869. There was little warning. In those days, there was no weather channel, and locals scoffed at warning, even at the term 'hurricane' itself which they felt was reserved for storms down south. But the storm was a category 3 when it hit, and it hit on a moon tide. It scoured the landscape, cornfields rolled over, smashed houses like matchsticks, roads to cobble, transfigured the collective consciousness of those who were fortunate enough to survive it. 2 billion trees were destroyed. Of the 99 deaths in Massachusetts from the Hurricane of '38, 22 were in our town. Old timers still describe the uncanny light, the strange green smell that filled the air as barometers dropped out and the surge rose 10 feet above flood and swept over the dunes, the sound of the wind as it grew into a howl, more vast and strange than any sound they had heard.
That Hurricane of '38, that struck on a moon tide, nearly 75 years ago is still part of this regions' lore, and part of our awareness that you can prepare--take your common sense steps--but at a certain point, there is nothing you can do. You do what you can, and then you take it as it comes. Which might seem an old-fashioned way of looking at things. But is perhaps a decent thought on how to live a life.


Dawn's second novel, "The Season of Open Water," won the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction in 2006.

And so it is that all great work inspires creativity! Here then is a menu to experience and that I hope might capture a little of an ordinary day in Game of Secrets. Won't you sit down at the table?

Cioppino Style Clams with Bacon and Tangerine Scented Broth
This dish draws on Marne's time in the Bay area, where Cioppino originated. 

serves six.

1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 cup onion, minced
Zest and juice of one tangerine
1 medium garlic clove, minced
3 dozen clams
1 cup white wine
Fresh thyme

in a heavy-bottomed, 4-pint soup kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, tangerine zest and juice, garlic and fresh thyme over low heat. do not allow to brown. add clams, cover and turn heat to medium. Cook until clams open about five minutes. using tongs remove clams to individual bowls and ladle broth over top. serve at once with sourdough bread.

Lobster Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich
Each Friday at the Scrabble Game, Ada would bring a Cheese and Tomato Sandwich, I hope she would approve of the added ingredient, lobster!

makes 2 sandwiches

5 ounces lobster
½ cup brie (diced)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon each fresh tarragon and basil (chopped)
2 green onions (sliced)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices bread
2 slices cheddar cheese
4 slices ripe heirloom tomato
salted butter (room temperature)

Mix the lobster, brie, mayo, basil, tarragon, green onions, grainy mustard, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Butter one side of each slice of bread and assemble sandwiches with the buttered sides of the bread facing out and fill with a slice of cheese, slices of tomato and half of the lobster mixture.
Grill until the bread is golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted on the inside.
Cut on the diagonal and serve while hot.

Roasted Pumpkin, Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Absconding with pumpkins was part of Luce's growing up in Game of Secrets, and here's what to do when too many pile up.

Inspired by David Lebovitz (Living the Sweet Life in Paris) and North Carolina.

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
2 cups (250 ml) sour cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 inch slice fresh ginger
½ tsp crushed coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg yolks
½ cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 2 teaspoons amaretto or rum
3/4 cup roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, or butternut squash

In a medium saucepan mix the milk, raw sugar, five spice, ground cinnamon, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, and salt.
Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly.
Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 160º-170ºF (71º-76ºC).
Immediately pour the mixture into the bowl, fishing out the cinnamon stick and ginger. Mix in the molasses, then stir until cool, then chill till completely cool. Even overnight is ok.
Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using), and the sweet potato, squash or pumpkin puree. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

French Travel Tales: Fig Duel in Provence

Mary James in Provence and I are set for a friendly duel of fruit; at thirty paces from the nearest fig tree, frying pans at the ready, our most divine fig dishes in our hands and heart. She is in Provence, I am in Chapel Hill, NC. We ask you to visit both blogs and then comment on which is your favorite fig fixin'.

No one, certainly not I, can deny the pure sensuality of the fig. Its true, I was attracted to its swollen purple belly bursting with red seeds the moment your (my?) teeth sink into its tender flesh.

Back in July, in all that heat and humidness, I made a first foray into fig-land; figs-from-our-tree land. Since then, I have learned a lot.

I learned that figs only grow on  a tree's new growth.

So Close, and Yet

Since figs stubbornly grow on new growth, and our trees had gotten quite tall; we could only reach them while standing on the roof. The figs in the middle branches– about twenty feet from the ground, were more of a puzzle. But we, in the south, are wily creatures and figured out to use a boat hook to pull the branches down to us. Sometimes we had to fight the squirrels and the birds.

I learned that on any given tree, the figs ripen at different times.

Well, duh, this only made sense. And this was good news, and I feel rather sheepish even to admit not realizing it before, but such was my fig fever. Since  our figs didn’t all ripen on the ONE day I was away, the happy surprise is that we still have figs that even Irene didn't claim. 

Fig Tart, Before the Oven

I learned that the flowers of the fig tree are inside the fruit and figs are pollinated by a female wasp who enters the fig through a tiny hole in its "belly." 

What? It's true and there's more to that story, but we'll move on.

In my novel, City of Ladies, the lore of the fig tree plays a role in Eleone's journey. The fig tree is thought of as the Tree if Life and Knowledge. To Eleone's maman it was the Tree of Desire and Birth.  

I learned that figs have always been coveted. 

And local and not so local friends twitter (and just plain jabber) about their “crop” (how large is a crop of figs? is a fig in the hand worth two on the top of the tree?) What does one do with a crop of figs?

In North Carolina and the south the fig has a long history. Fig preserves, jam, and cake all top the list. 

I learned Fig Dish was a 1990's Rock Band in Chicago. 

But back to figs and eating. I already knew that fig season is unbearably short. But it’s the best kind of unbearable shivery tension. You notice trees dotted with ripe yellow orbs as you drive by, and you hear (along with the crash of cars) more rumors of trees loaded with figs on obscure country roads. And like all the best stories, these tales stay with you long after you comprehend your good fortune to find your hands full of warm figs. 

Fig Tart, After the Oven
(For this recipe please visit a previous post)

Figs are the best example of local and seasonal. When they’re done, they're gone until, you guessed it, next year.

So please visit my friend, Mary James Lawrence's blog in Provence gentle readers, and tell us what you like best! Or tell us your favorite fig dishes.

Face the luscious days of fall like the birds, and enjoy a meal of figs. 

At Long Last, Figs.

Chorizo and Caramelized Onion Figs
The sweet hot nature of this dish is stunning. Makes a very nice tapas, appetizer, first course or as a cute little distraction from a salad.

½ pound chorizo removed from the casing
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 pound fresh figs, halved
¼ pound thin sliced prosciutto
1/4 cup of dry sherry

In a heavy skillet, cook chorizo until majority of oil is released. Drain chorizo on to a paper towel discard the rendered oil. In the unwashed skillet on low heat add all onions and cook until translucent and a light caramel color. Sprinkle with sugar and add in garlic and cook until translucent. Add sherry and reduce. Add to the cooled chorizo, combine well. Cool mixture and then, using a tablespoon, fill the halved figs with mixture. Wrap each filled fig with a thin slice of prosciutto and place on a baking sheet. Bake figs in a 350 oven for 10 minutes, until ham is crispy.

Sourdough Focaccia with Rosemary, Figs, and Parmesan
Oh this is good, so good! It is worth the time to make the starter. C'mon, just try it!

The starter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package or 2 t. Dry yeast
2 ½ cups lukewarm water

Start the starter:
One full day, 24 hours before you’d like to eat/serve your focaccia make the starter. This will make more than you need for the recipe, but once you make it you can go directly to the “final mix” stage of the recipe.

Choose a large crockery bowl. Place the flour in and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and water and gradually stir to mix well. Then incorporate the flour, until well combined. Beat until smooth, using a fork is fine. Cover with a towel in a warm draft free place for 24 hours.

Remove the 2 cups you need for the recipe. 

Feed the starter and store it away.
1 cup mixed flour (no more than 1/3 of the cup should be “other” flour. For example i have used millet, amaranth, whole wheat, rye, garbanzo bean, or even rice flour.)
1/2 cup water.

To keep your starter healthy, feed it every day. And when you use it, replace the amount you took away. If a clear liquid forms on top, just stir it in, but if it turns pink, the starter has spoiled.  Throw it away.

For the final focaccia:
2 cups of sour dough starter
4 cups warm water
Drizzle of honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 scant tablespoon yeast, optional (if you can give the dough another 24 hours in the fridge to rise, you may leave out the yeast)
4 - 6 cups more flour

For topping:
Olive oil
Lots of sea salt
1-2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
8 fresh figs, halved
½ cup shredded parmesan cheeses

Begin by adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and the yeast, if using, to the 1 cup of starter in the bowl. Stir until well-combined. Add the salt and enough flour and water (1 cup at a time) to make a thick mass of dough which is difficult to stir. Turn dough out on a floured surface and using a dough scraper at first, “knead” in the remaining flour if needed, until the dough is firm and smooth. Let this dough rise on the table for about an hour, taking 2 if you can. At this point also, you can store the dough in the fridge for a 24 hour slow rise.

If you went with a long slow rise in the fridge and didn't add in extra yeast, the dough will not rise as much as a "normal" yeast bread would.  

Remove dough from fridge for one hour to come to room temperature when you wish to finish and bake it. Pick up from here.

Prepare the pan for baking:
Use a large baking sheet with sides, pour on olive oil and using a paper towel or your clean hands spread the oil around so the pan is adequately covered. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the oiled pan. Push the dough down to spread it, but do not stretch it, be gentle, using your hands, pressing it into the shape of the baking sheet. Let rise another 30 - 60 minutes if possible.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Top the focaccia:
With the olive oil, salt and chopped rosemary, figs, and parmesan cheese. Bake until firm and a rich caramel color. 20-25 minutes. Cool as much as you can on a wired rack, then cut in squares.

Great served as is with olive oil for dipping or with a salad or a bowl of soup.  

Figgy Chicken Salad with Red Curry and Caramelized Pecans

Serves 4

8 fresh figs, quartered
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
2 sweet roasted red peppers, chopped
1 head romaine, washed and chopped
1 bunch each fresh mint, basil, and cilantro, washed and chopped
(reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)

1 tablespoon red curry paste, more or less to taste
1 cup greek style yogurt
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon and orange
1 tablespoon each chopped peanuts, coconut, and raisins
Freshly ground black and white peppercorns

Caramelized Pecans
1 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Begin by caramelizing the pecans. 
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the pecans.  Toss in the butter and add the salt and sugar and crushed red pepper.  Continue stirring over medium heat until the sugar melts and forms a shiny caramel glaze.  Remove to a buttered plate.

Ready the Salad Ingredients
Quarter the figs, and chop the chicken, peppers, herbs and lettuce and place in a pretty salad bowl.

Mix the dressing ingredients 
Add them together in another bowl, whisk well. Then pour over the salad ingredients. Mix gently.

Serve on individual plates garnished with the extra herbs and the caramelized pecans.

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