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Cucumber Salad with Dill Sauce

Cucumber salad with dill sauce

This time of year, Kirby cucumbers are abundant at farmer’s markets. Unlike those you buy at the grocery store that become soft and rotten in days, fresh ones from your farmer’s markets can last a week or more. I like to make cucumber salads; sometimes with oil and vinegar, other times with a crème based dressing. This one is really good. When you salt and drain the cucumbers, the flavor becomes more intensified and they stay crisp if you have leftovers for the next day.

This dressing, for 6 Kirby cucumbers, should be enough to make salad dressing. It is also delicious on cold, poached salmon. You can use sour cream, but crème fraiche makes it even better.

Cucumber Salad with Dill Sauce

½ bunch dill, stems removed and chopped

4 ounces sour cream or crème fraiche

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Juice from ½ a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

6 Kirby cucumbers

Cut off ends and peel, if desired; I use a carrot peeler to peel stripes. Cut cucumbers into ¼ inch rounds and place in colander. Mix salt in and put something heavy on cucumbers for one hour. Rinse and shake dry. Mix ingredients and toss cucumbers and let sit about 15 minutes.

There will be more than enough dressing; if you have leftovers, make salad dressing. Put into a food processor 1 clove garlic, more dill, extra virgin olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper and the extra dressing.

 

Peanut Sauce on Tofu with Cucumbers and Zucchini

Tofu with Peanut Sauce with zucchini “pasta” and cucumber

I experimented for years on this peanut sauce and it is now pretty much the bee’s knees. Since I first tried Chinese cold noodles and sesame in college, I was obsessed with it.  My boyfriend introduced me to it from a Chinese restaurant in New York City; at the time, it was the spiciest food I had ever had and the first few times I had the dish, it took me forever to eat it—but I loved it and was hooked! I made it for years with noodles. (Note: if you want to make it with noodles, double the sauce recipe and use a pound of Chinese noodles. Top with cucumber, omit zucchini.)

I first made this recipe on warmed up ciabatta with slices of cucumber. This is the low carb version and it is delicious!

If you have not had baked tofu, it is really—good! The outside forms a crust and the texture is chewy, giving it a nice mouthfeel. The tamari on the outside also gives it more flavor.

The condiments I use:

sauces for sesami sauce

Peanut Sauce on Tofu with Cucumbers and Zucchini “Pasta”

Serves 4

1 pound extra firm tofu

1 cucumbers, julienned

2-3 zucchini, julienned

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ inch piece of minced ginger

2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds

3 pieces of chopped scallion

1 tablespoon San-J® All Purpose Szechuan Hot and Spicy Sauce

1/2 cup crunchy or smooth natural peanut butter

1 tablespoons tamari sauce, (wheat free soy sauce)  plus a teaspoon for tofu

3 tablespoons Peanut oil, like Loriva

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Hot pepper flakes to taste

Cilantro, chopped as garnish, optional

Water as needed

Preheat oven to 350. Cut tofu in half crosswise. With paper or a kitchen towel, cover and place something heavy on top to remove any water. Brush tofu with tamari sauce and bake, 45 minutes, until lightly browned.

Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil on low in a sauté pan; when hot, add garlic, ginger, scallion, hot pepper flakes and sesame seeds and cook until softened. Add peanut butter, Szechuan Hot and Spicy Sauce, and tamari and stir. Add enough water for a thick but pleasing consistency. Turn off heat and add sesame oil and cilantro.

Heat 1 tablespoon in a sauté pan on high and add zucchini when hot. Stir until just starting to get limp and add some sauce.

Plate: put zucchini down, then arrange tofu and add cucumber. Top with sauce.

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Summer Flageolets, Ham and Kale Salad

Flageolets, ham and kale salad
Summer Flageolets, ham and kale salad

This is a simple salad that works well on a hot summer day and is very easy to make.

I like ham, but in small doses. About once a year, I’ll buy a pound (nitrate free and humanely raised), quarter and freeze it and use it to enhance flavor in a dish. This dish is a perfect example, as I use 4 ounces of ham for four portions.

Flageolets are baby kidney beans and  are very creamy and tasty. If you can’t find them, regular kidney beans are fine. It is worth seeking out dried beans, because there are so many more varieties available than in canned. That said, I do use canned beans for the convenience. One tip with dried beans—do not add salt to them until they are almost done.

Summer Flageolets, Ham and Kale Salad

Serves 4

1 Bunch lacinato kale, cut chiffonade (arugula also works well)

Handful parsley, chopped

¼ pound cooked ham, diced small

1 cup raw flageolets or one 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed

1 medium red onion, sliced thin on a mandolin, chopped and squeezed of excess water

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive or walnut oil

1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

Follow cooking directions for beans and drain liquid. Add onion, ham and parsley to beans. Mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and divide into two. Mix half the dressing with the bean mixture when beans are still warm and the remaining dressing with the kale. If you are using arugula, wait until you are ready to serve to mix.

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Pork Chops with Garlic and Herb Dressing and Smashed Chinese Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil

Pork Cutlets with Garlic and Herb Dressing and Smashed Chinese Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil
Pork Cutlets with Garlic and Herb Dressing and Smashed Chinese Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil

You can also use chicken in this recipe. I made a marinade for the pork chops with soy sauce to compliment the cucumber salad and the dishes worked nicely together. The herbs and lemon really wake up the pork and give it more flavor.  I ended up with extra dressing, so I added some champagne vinegar and a bit more extra virgin olive oil and made a delightful salad dressing for later use on salads.

Called pai huang gua  in China, the smashed cucumber salad is very popular there and is trendy in Manhattan, served at many restaurants. It is the perfect, cool salad for summer and is easy to make. As opposed to the slick surface of a sliced cucumber, smashing them opens them up and coarsens their surfaces to make them better to hold the dressing. Smashing also helps to remove their seeds.

Seared Pork Chops

4 bone-in or boneless one inch thick pork chops

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

Pepper, as needed

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Mix ingredients and add pork. Marinate 2 hours to overnight. Heat a cast iron pan on high and add enough extra virgin olive to coat bottom. When hot, remove marinade from chops and reserve. Cook chops about two minutes per side, until brown. Lower heat to low, add marinade, cover and cook five minutes. Check while cooking and add 1-2 tablespoons of water if liquid is needed. Plate chops and drizzle any remaining liquid on top.

Garlic and Herb Dressing

¼ cup chopped parsley

3 tablespoons chopped mint

1 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chives

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sea salt, more as needed

Black pepper, as needed

⅛ teaspoon chile flakes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the herbs, garlic, lemon, 1 teaspoon salt and chile flakes. Stir in 1/2 cup oil or use a small food processor to combine ingredients.

Plate chops and add dressing on top.

If you have leftover dressing, add champagne or white wine vinegar and more olive oil, if needed, to make salad dressing for later use.

Preparing cucumbers for Chinese Smashed Cucumbers

Smashed Chinese Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English, Kirby or Persian

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I use peanut oil only when I cook Asian dishes and like Loriva roasted. They don’t add chemicals and it tastes fantastic; refrigerate for long shelf life.)

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish

2 teaspoons toasted white and/or black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Remove ends. Cut crosswise into pieces about 4 inches long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.

Place a piece of cucumber cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. The skin will crack, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat on other pieces. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind. Scrape any additional seeds off. You can also remove seeds first, cutting them away with a knife, then smashing cucumbers.

Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with salt. Place something heavy on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and let drain 30 minutes or in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt and rice vinegar. Stir in sesame oil, peanut oil and soy sauce, garlic and peppers.

When ready to serve, rinse cucumbers well and shake to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss. Garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds and serve.

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Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans, Bacon and Manchego Cheese

Brussels sprout salad with bacon, manchego cheese and pecans
Brussels sprout salad with bacon, manchego cheese and pecans

I love main course salads for dinner in the summer. I get the bacon from Hemlock Hill Farm, where the animals roam free. There are no nitrates in the bacon and it is beyond delicious! (It’s so good that I rarely eat any other bacon and buy several pounds at a time, freezing them in bundles of 4 slices.) If you live near or find yourself in Northern Westchester, NY, check them out. They have a store on the farm and the meat is the best you can find anywhere.

Speaking of which, I know “grass fed meat” is a buzz word these days, but there is some confusion. 100% grass fed is not necessary for your health or the welfare of animals—you want to know they are pasture raised; some grains are fine.

For example, at Hemlock Hill Farms, their beef, chicken, geese, goats and lamb are all pasture raised and their pigs are grain fed.  They have this awesome partnership with local brewers, Captain Lawrence Brewery and get their leftover barley from making beer.

According to the owner, “In the summer months we cut ‘hay’ which is in turn grass.  That hay we feed to them in the winter months.  Cattle, as all ruminants, must have some form of hay/grass in their diet always. On top of that they get spent barley in their diet which is an excellent by product that breweries make.  It’s a great feed source for cattle.  There is about 30% spent barley in their diet year round.”

Anyway, back to this salad. It is really tasty!

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans, Bacon and Manchego Cheese

Serves 8 as side, 4 main course

1 ½  pounds baby brussels sprouts, slicer attachment on food processor or cut in half and hand slice thin

¼ cup lemon juice

1 T olive oil

8 slices bacon, cut into pieces, reserve fat

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 t Dijon mustard

3 T cider vinegar

Salt & Pepper

¾ cup pecan, toasted at 350 until lightly brown and fragrant; watch carefully—5-10 minutes–and chopped coarsely

4 ounces manchego cheese, chopped into small pieces

Cook bacon and remove from pan, leaving bacon fat. (Note: depending on bacon, you will either have the right amount of fat or too much. You can eye it and remove some or just make a bigger batch of dressing, which can be used on any green salad.)

Add garlic to bacon fat and cook a few minutes on low. Turn off heat. Wisk in mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper.

Combine everything and let sit for about 20-30 to wilt brussels sprouts slightly.

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Turkey Meatloaf, Caprese with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella & Zucchini Salad

Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella
Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella

My newest obsession is fresh buffalo milk mozzarella. It started yesterday when I was checking out The New York Times recipes (I get daily emails on recipes, and store “my recipes box” on their website—love it!  See The New York Times Recipes  and found the “Classic Caprese Salad” and noticed that the author recommended buffalo milk mozzarella. So I headed over to Fairway, found it and made the dish last night.

Buffalo milk mozzarella is made in Italy, where the perfect climate for it produces cheese that is richer than regular cow mozzarella. It is soft and basically has an incredible “mouthfeel”. It is unbelievably good.

Many have tried but failed to produce anything comparable to Italian buffalo mozzarella, but there is one farm that makes artisanal buffalo milk mozzarella in the U.S. A place called Remini Mozzarella in Tomales, California, they do tours on Saturdays and I want to go!

When treated with affection and care, buffalo are as loving as dogs, according to the owner. At this farm, they handle all the buffalo and their babies and the animals produce milk only when they want to on a reward system. Ramini Mozzarella

The mozzarella from Fairway came in a bag with liquid.

Italian fresh buffalo mozzarella

Not sure how it stays fresh, because I read that the shelf life is only a few days—but I guess the liquid keeps it good. I will explore what buffalo mozzarella is at Zabar’s, because I can and because they have an amazing selection of cheeses. (Plus I got the only container they had at Fairway and am already worried about future supplies!)

So I made the Caprese salad with turkey meatloaf and zucchini salad. The Caprese salad was amazing, with tomatoes from a farm stand on Long Island that I got last weekend. And, of course the mozzarella.

The turkey meatloaf is a nice recipe, but I must admit, it holds together better with the addition of panko, which I left out.

Turkey meatloaf, zucchini salad and fresh buffalo mozzarella
Turkey meatloaf, zucchini salad and fresh buffalo mozzarella

Caprese Salad

Melissa Clark’s recipe in The New York Times:   

Mine was a little different, because I used grape tomatoes instead of regular sized Heirlooms. I cut up the mozzarella and tomatoes into small bite-sized pieces, and chiffonade-cut the basil. Then I added a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed everything.

 Zucchini Salad

1-2 zucchini, ends removed and sliced into ¼” slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400. Place zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan and coat with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast 7-10 minutes until slightly brown. Place zucchini in a bowl, add vinegar and toss.

Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 4; preheat oven to 350

1 pound ground turkey

4 scallions chopped or 1 small red onion thinly sliced on a mandolin, chopped and squeezed

¼ cup milk

1 egg

1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper

Handful parsley, chopped fine

½ package of unflavored gelatin (I add this to all my meatloaves because it gives it a nice texture. There is a scientific reason behind it, but the cookbook that explains it is in storage. Try it!)

½ cup panko or breadcrumbs if you are not restricting carbs

Mix the gelatin with the milk and add the egg and let sit a few minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bake for 30 minutes in a meatloaf or cast iron pan.

Summer Cherry, Goat Cheese and Chick Pea Salad

Summer Cherry, goat cheese and chick pea salad
Summer Cherry, goat cheese and chick pea salad

This recipe, from The Week, was a bit out of my comfort zone. Cherries in a salad? But I had a bunch of them, and they were not really sweet and I wanted to use them up. My low carb version did not include the brown rice; had I used a grain, I would have chosen wheat berries instead. I also added kale, which was not in the recipe.

Beans are not really low carb, but I still use them because I do not like eating meat or fish every day. Beans also have a lot of fiber which you can subtract from the total carbs, so they aren’t that bad.

Let the goat cheese get to room temperature and toss some or all of it into salad; it will break down and the flavor will enhance every bite. You can use remaining in small pieces which looks nice.

The upshot was that the salad was really delicious and I will be making it again!

Summer Cherry, Goat Cheese and Chick Pea Salad

Serves 2 as main course

2 cups cooked brown rice, warmed or wheat berries my idea (Did not use either)

Small bunch or part of a large head of Lacinato kale, sliced Chiffonade*

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

¼ cup lightly packed chopped or chiffonade fresh basil leaves

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white balsamic, white wine, sherry or cider vinegar

½ tsp sea salt, more as needed

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, more as needed

32 fresh cherries (about 9 oz), pitted and quartered

1¾ cups home-cooked or 15 oz unsalted canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 oz goat cheese, crumbled or in pinches (about ½ cup) at room temperature

Combine the brown rice (if using), kale, scallions, basil, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cherries, and chickpeas in a mixing bowl, stirring to incorporate. Add all or most of the goat cheese. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed. Allow to sit about 15 minutes to soften kale.

*Chiffonade is a slicing technique in which vegetables are cut into long, thin strips. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll. Slicing tough veggies like kale in this mannor makes it softer and easier to chew when raw. It’s also very pretty!

Chiffonade

Brazilian Style Fish

Brazilian Style Fish
Brazilian Style Fish

I had a version of this recipe at my friend’s house several years ago and loved it. Am not sure why it took me so long to finally make it, but it is delicious and it will be making more frequent visits to my dinner table. It is very easy and it makes a terrific meal for entertaining. If you are eating food high in carbs, rice and/or bread would make a nice addition.

Like Chioppino, there is something about fish in a tomato base that is just so fresh tasting and delicious.

My friend used Monkfish, but I couldn’t find any, so I used Swordfish. Note: if you see Monkfish, “the poor man’s lobster,” grab it—it’s a meaty and tasty fish. Try this recipe with it or Mark Bittman’s Monkfish with Meatsauce.

Good choices for this recipe are any firm-fleshed fish like Mahi Mahi or shellfish.

I added baby spinach a zucchini “pasta,” so the dish is a complete meal and I served it in a bowl with spoons.

Brazilian Style Fish

Serves four

1 1/2 lbs. monkfish, swordfish, mahi mahi or other firm-fleshed fish or shellfish cut into bite sized chunks

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 – 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and chopped finely (or use a pinch of ground cayenne)

1 red or orange bell pepper seeded and sliced

2 stalks celery chopped

1”  fresh ginger chopped

8 large cloves garlic chopped and divided

28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp cinnamon (this may not sound like a lot, but it is the perfect amount)

Celtic sea salt and pepper to taste

1 can unsweetened coconut milk

6 ounces baby spinach

2-3 medium zucchini, julienned

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 C cilantro chopped

  1. Sauté jalapeño, onions, peppers, celery, ginger and half the garlic in oil until the vegetables are softened.
  2. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk and fish and cook until done, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and zucchini for a minute
  5. Just a minute before fish is done, add remaining chopped garlic.
  6. When fish is done, add lime juice and half of cilantro. Correct seasoning, adding salt, cayenne, cinnamon or more coconut milk as desired.
  7. Serve garnished with remaining cilantro and lime wedges.

 

Low Carb Summer Chicken with Pesto, Zucchini and Tomato Salad

Chicken breat with pesto, zucchini pasta and tomato salad

For those of you jumping in now, my recipes are low carb/low fat and high in deliciousness! Prepare these dishes and I promise you that you will not feel like you are restricting your intake in anyway. I’ve been eating low carb/low fat for six months now, with some exceptions on the weekends—I mean, for fucks sake—I live in NYC with the best bread in the world and we might be doomed with 45!

Seriously, these recipes are loaded with lean proteins and a wide variety of vegetables with good fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado. I cook with mostly organic and local when possible and eat free range/pasture raised meat and sustainably harvested fish. I also use spices and fresh herbs, and ingredients that impart umami flavors so you don’t miss the mouth feel of high carbs.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are handy, but if you aren’t careful, they are easy to ruin by overcooking, becoming flavorless and tough. That said, cooking some dishes with boneless chicken breast isn’t a problem, like when you brown them quickly and then make a sauce; but for plain chicken, I prefer to cook them on the bone, because the skin and bone keeps them juicy and tender. Chicken on the bone is less expensive, too.  I just discard the skin, so they are still low fat. Cooking time is 95% hands off, as you use the oven and a timer so you don’t have to pay attention.

I have made many a roasted chicken and like all the parts, but prefer the breast. Since my local grocery store sells Murray’s chicken parts bone-in, I have been buying and roasting them like crazy this summer. It is so much easier than cutting up the whole chicken! I use them in my salad for lunch and for a quick dinner. The basic recipe is so easy and foolproof. Add a few ingredients and change the dish entirely. When it’s hot, I like to roast the poultry in the morning and eat it for dinner cold. You can certainly use dark meat instead of, or in addition to, the breast.

Note: if you are using dark meat, save the meaty bones and freeze them. When you have a good amount (1-2 dozen or so) you can make chicken bone broth. (You can save breast bones, too, but the broth won’t be rich enough with dark meat and cartilage.) I’ll post the recipe another time. You can freeze stock in small containers or zip locks and use in recipes, drink (they are the latest health craze) or add them to your dog’s food and make their meals healthier and tastier.

Chicken and Pesto with Zucchini and Tomato Salad

I made this dinner last week with the Scapes and Basil Pesto

Tomato Salad and Scapes and Basil Pesto

I had made and frozen earlier. A quick tomato salad from the farmer’s market and zucchini “pasta” completed the meal. A perfect low carb, fresh, easy to make summer dinner!

Zucchini and julienne/vegetable peeler
Zucchini and julienne/vegetable peeler

To make zucchini “pasta”, use a vegetable/julienne peeler or spiralizer. Mine is from Amazon. Simply use julienne side to make “pasta”. Turn zucchini and use until you hit the seeds. For this dish, I heated a saute pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and stirred in zucchini until in softens; about a minute or two. Add a bit of slat and pepper and it’s done.

 

Lemon Chicken Parts Roasted Bone-In

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Chicken parts, rinsed and dried

Salt and Pepper

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup. Place chicken skin side down and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 30 minutes and flip. Add more salt and pepper and cook 30 minutes. Add lemon juice to chicken when you remove it from oven.  Allow chicken to sit 10 minutes.

Scoop some pesto onto the chicken and zucchini and add tomato salad.

Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad & How to Prepare Raw Red Onions

tomato salad
Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad

I like red, raw onions, but not the way I usually find them in dishes—in chunks or thick slices—because the flavor is overpowering (and gives me heartburn, to boot). Instead, I slice them on the thinnest blade on my mandolin, squeeze out the excess water and chop a bit.

(As the photograph makes clear, mine is a cheap plastic one I probably bought on Amazon for about $10. But it works great! If you don’t have a mandolin, do yourself a favor and get one, as you will use it a lot and it slices vegetables so easily and quickly!)  Then I add it to many of my summer salads like potato, tomato, chicken and more. Prepared like this, you don’t taste the onion separately; it melds in with the dish.

Mandolin
Mandolin

This is the simplest tomato salad. You can add fresh mozzarella or feta cheese, basil, and Greek olives. Tomatoes are best when not refrigerated, so the key to this salad is to prepare just before you eat and serve it at room temperature. I use balsamic vinegar to give it a bit of added sweetness and it also helps bring out the tomato flavor. I make this dish when tomatoes are in season and can be purchased at the farmer’s markets, because locally grown are infinitesimally better than commercial hot house varieties.

Farmer’s Market Tomato Salad

Grape tomatoes (or any other) cut in half

Red onion, sliced thin on a mandolin

Splash of balsamic vinegar

Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and serve at room temperature.

Tomorrow I’ll post my dinner from the other night, which was roasted chicken with this tomato salad, zucchini “pasta” and the scapes and basil pesto I posted last week.

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