Pancakes with Greens

 

greens pancakes

Real-life pocket-camera photo of the pancakes just before they were devoured, with tomato sauce and another recipe from Plenty, roasted veggies with caper and lemon dressing – delicious! 

 

My friend Megan grew up in the south.  She loves greens; collards, kale, chard, you name it.  She loves them just cooked and piled up on a plate.  However, as I have confessed before, I just don’t like them like that, I find it too slimy, too bitter, too dark and green.  But I think of her when I find a way to eat greens that I do like, such as this one from Plenty by Yotam Otelenghi.  If you’re at all interested in eating vegetables, this cookbook is a must-read.  Lots and lots of new ideas and flavors.  I’m pretty sure that it made a great big splash when it came out a couple of years ago, but somehow I missed it.  I like finding good things that I’ve missed, and you can keep them longer from the library.  Bryan and I have been cooking together a lot lately, and we raced through this book, I don’t think I’ve ever made so many recipes from one source in such a short time.  Good thing too, because even though it’s not a new book, someone else requested it at the library and I had to give it back after three weeks.  I’ll just have to get my own copy.

In the meantime, I really wanted to make these pancakes for Megan when I saw her.  She’s eating dairy-free for a while, so I had to adapt the recipe (even more than I already had).  But to my delight the pancakes are just as good!  The key to this recipe is to beat the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold them into the batter.  It makes a lovely light texture and holds everything together.

The original recipe has you fold lime and herbs into softened butter, then refrigerate it again, and put on the pancakes.  They are delicious with the flavored butter (I used lemon and thyme), but just as good with a plain pat of butter, and/or with tomato sauce on top.  I bet they’re good with your favorite sauce and condiments as well.

 

Greens Pancakes

 

Adapted (a lot) from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Pull the greens from the stems of one large bunch or two small bunches of green stuff: collard greens, chard, kale, spinach, etc.  You should have about 8 cups.  Steam in a steamer basket over simmering water until bright green and wilted.

Meanwhile, mix together in a large bowl:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

2 egg yolks

2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter -or- olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2/3 cup milk -or- water

2 green onions, finely sliced

1/4 cup fresh or frozen and thawed or canned green chiles -or- sub a little of your favorite hot sauce

Chop the steamed greens fairly fine and mix them in as well.  The batter will look like mostly greens held together with a little flour and stuff, and that’s fine.

 

Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed with a mixer until they hold a soft peak when you pull the beaters away.  Fold the egg whites into the batter gently with a rubber spatula, just until everything is combined.

Put a little oil (it really doesn’t take much for them not to stick) in a frying pan, and heat it over medium-low heat.  Ladle about a quarter cup of batter into the pan for each pancake, and flatten it out a bit.  Cook until deep brown on the bottom, then flip with a metal spatula and cook the other side.  Put the pancakes on a plate and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Enjoy!

Simple Homemade Cheese – Goat Cheese and Paneer too!

 

My friend Tom comes up with some good ideas sometimes (shh – don’t tell him!) especially when it comes to food.  The other day he appeared at my house with some goat cheese he made.  I have been making fresh paneer cheese for Indian food for a while, mainly because we live a fairly small town and (to my knowledge) you can’t buy it here.  So, I already had a method for fresh cheese that’s pretty foolproof and I know works with a variety of different ingredients, and thanks to Tom’s idea, I tried it with goat milk too, and it worked great!  I got a soft fresh goat cheese.

I first learned this method from reading the paneer cheese directions in Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath, my favorite Indian cookbook.  Since then I have figured out a few tricks and variations.  One thing I love about this way of making cheese is that you don’t need anything you don’t already have in your kitchen or can’t easily get.  And there’s only one thing you need to know that may not be obvious if you’ve never made cheese before – read on.

 

fresh cheese 1

 

Recipe Sketch: Simple Homemade Cheese

Start with milk.  You can use whole or low-fat, cow or goat etc.  If you can get small-batch pasteurized, or non-homogenized milk, it will make a big difference in the texture of the curds and the cheese, for the better.  We used to get local dairy milk in glass bottles in Madison, which worked great.  Organic Valley has a non-homogenized “grass milk” I can get here, which also works great.  Don’t worry if you can’t find anything other than ultra-pasteurized milk though, you can still make cheese!  The only goat milk I could get was homogenized and ultra-pasteurized, and it still worked, as you can see.

Put the milk in pot with room to spare.  You can use whatever portion of milk you happen to have left in the fridge.  Most of what’s in milk is water, so be prepared for to more to become whey than cheese.  I used 1 quart of goat milk and got just over 5 oz of soft cheese, a ball about the size of my fist.

Heat the milk until it starts to boil, stirring occasionally.  Stay around the kitchen for this part, even though it will take a little while for the cold milk to heat, because as soon as it starts to boil it will want to boil over!  I like to put away the dishes or something while I’m waiting.

Also while you’re waiting, get out something acidic to curdle the cheese.  You can use fresh lemon or lime juice, or yogurt, cultured buttermilk, or even vinegar.  Each one will give a little different flavor to the cheese.  One of my favorites is a little lime with a little buttermilk.  Use whatever you have and experiment to see what you like best.

When the milk starts to boil, turn it down to a simmer and add a little bit of your acidic substance of choice.  Stir and wait for about 30 seconds, then if nothing is happening, add a little more acid, stir and wait again.  At some point a separation will occur, instead of milk you’ll have solid curds and translucent whey (yup – little miss muffet).  This is the key to knowing if the separation is complete, the whey will be yellowish and almost clear, you will be able to see distinct white curds floating in it.  The curds may be tiny flakes or huge globs, depending on the milk, but all the white milk solids will be in them, and they’ll be floating in the translucent whey.  I could have sworn I had a picture (from my not-well-lit kitchen) of what it looks like when the curds are huge, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I’ll take one next time it happens.  For this goat milk the curds are tiny.

 

fresh cheese 2

 

Once you have curds and whey, turn off the heat and let them rest for a few minutes while you get ready to drain the cheese.  Put two layers of cheesecloth (yup – that’s why it’s called that) in a colander.  If you want to save the whey, put a bowl under the colander.  You can use the whey instead of milk to make pancakes, etc., as a soup stock, or to make other kinds of cheese.

Pour the curds and whey into the colander.  If you want to make a firmer, sliceable cheese, add any flavorings you want at this point, while you can still stir them into the cheese.  For soft cheese you can do it later.  In any case, then gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and tie it together, so that the cheese continues to drain.  I have a long, plastic coated twist tie that I use, one end is twisted into a loop that goes over my faucet, and I twist the other end around the cheesecloth and let it hang it the sink, still inside the colander.  You can also tie the cheesecloth to a wooden spoon or other tool laid across the top of your colander.  You just want the cheese in its cloth to be suspended so it continues to drain.

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That’s about it!  Leave your cheese to drain for an hour or more, depending on how firm you like it to be.  If I’m making paneer I want it to be sliceable, so I’ll leave it longer than for soft goat cheese.  You can always open the cheesecloth and check to see if it has reached the consistency you want.  If you’d like it to be firmer, just tie it back up and leave it to drain a little longer.  You can also press the cheese after draining, between two plates with something heavy on top, and leave it in the fridge like that for a few more hours to make it even firmer.  So like I said, lots of options.

Ta-da! Cheese!  You can now scoop it out of the cheesecloth and into a bowl or container to save it.   For soft cheese, you can stir in a little salt or any herbs you would like to add to the flavor.

 

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So there you go, I hope that’s enough to get you started on your own cheese-making adventures!

 

Almond Paste Stuffed Dates

 

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Happy Midwinter everyone!  Light is sparkling off the snow here, and I’m quite excited that it’s coming back – after this we get just a bit more sun every day until the glories of summer  – no wonder so many cultures have celebrations around this time.

Whether you need some homemade gifts ASAP because the world did not in fact end today, or you had all that figured out long ago and just want a new winter treat to share with friends and family, I’ve got you covered.  These dates, soaked in brandy and orange juice, stuffed with almond paste and rolled in almonds, are fun to make and taste quite impressive!  They should be gluten-free as well, check the label on your almond paste to make sure.  We get Black Sphinx dates from Arizona Date Gardens – they’re wonderful.  Note: if you can find them sold in a plastic clam shell box, those are the freshest, gooiest dates you can imagine – and too soft for this recipe, they’ll just fall apart!  Use the regular, sold in a plastic bag or bulk bin kind here.

 

Almond Paste Stuffed Dates

adapted from two recipes in different editions of The Joy of Cooking

 

Pit, if not already done for you, 30 dates.  I like to use a “one clean hand” method, keeping a pairing knife in my dominant hand, and using the other hand for all the messy stuff; grabbing a date, holding it while I slice through it to the pit, pulling out the pit and tossing it in the compost, squeezing the date closed again and putting it in the bowl.  It sounds complicated but actually it’s pretty simple and efficient, especially if you have everything close by.

Place your pitted dates in the top of a double boiler.  I don’t actually own one, I use a pyrex bowl on top of a small pot of water, and the lid from another pot to cover the bowl.  Use whatever setup works, just make sure all the parts are heat safe and that nothing is in danger of falling over.

Pour over the dates: 1/4 cup brandy and 2 Tablespoons orange juice.  Bring the water in the bottom pot to a simmer, and let the dates heat in the brandy and OJ for 15 – 20 minutes (depending on how moist your dates are to start with), stirring them occasionally to make sure they all get a chance to soak up some yummy liquid.  They are done when the skins are curling off, you’ll see what I mean.

While the dates are cooking, pinch off pieces of almond paste and squish them to be about the size and shape of date pits.  They can be a little bigger, but not too much, or the dates won’t close around them.  Note: marzipan and almond paste are often sold side by side in the baking aisle of the grocery store.  Almond paste has more almonds and less sugar than marzipan, so it’s a better choice here because the dates are quite sweet on their own.

Also prepare the coating: grind about 1/2 cup almonds (some small chunks can remain but there should also be finer pieces – I do mine in a small food processor).  Add a pinch of sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and the zest of 1/2 orange.  Stir the coating together and put it on a cutting board or a plate for rolling.  Have a plate or piece of wax or parchment paper nearby to place the finished dates on.

 

stuffed dates 3

Hmm, iPhone pic, one of my goals for 2013 is to figure out how to take good pictures in my kitchen . . .

When the dates are done and cool enough to handle, pick them up one by one and peel off the large sections of skin that easily come off.  You don’t have to get all the skin off, but do get a fair amount so that the almonds will stick.  Place a piece of almond paste in the middle of each date, squeeze the date closed around it, and roll the surface in the almond mixture, then place the finished date aside.  You may have guessed that there are no clean hands for this part, but you do get to lick your fingers at the end.  As an extra bonus, there may be a little date-and-orange-steeped brandy left in the top of the double boiler when you finish the dates.  I highly recommend you drink this when no one is looking – it’s divine.

Let the dates dry for a few hours or overnight, then store them airtight.  I’ve never had any left to see how long they last, I would guess at least a few weeks in the fridge, and I ship them without fear.

 

stuffed dates 2

 

Enjoy!  And have a lovely solstice.

A Good Veggie Stock, and Drawing More Regularly

Two things that have eluded me until recently come together!

The stock, I don’t know, I’d just never been happy with any that I’d tried, it was one of only maybe two times that the Joy of Cooking has outright failed me, I wasn’t sure what other recipes to try . . . I finally “got” it when reading Deborah Madison’s Greens Cookbook, for some reason the way she explained using the veggies you have and tailoring the stock by adding say ginger and garlic for curry soup, etc., made more sense to me than essentially the same advice I’d read other places . . . so I just started making it, using “basic” vegetables and adding whatever seemed good or to go with the soup.  Hooray!

The drawing, it’s something I continually mean to do more of, and occasionally set specific goals and/or read books about it from the library, but for some reason it’s hard for me to keep up on any kind of regular basis.  I know, I KNOW that if I would just practice I would get smoother and better and eventually I could make little sketches that look like what I see, which is a goal of mine (I do my own illustrations for knitting handouts, which involves drawing the human hand, but very slowly and only when I’m in the exact right mood, ie almost never).  Then just this week I happened upon this post in which Jess shares some “maps” she made for parties, little plans with drawings and words about what she plans to make and how to arrange it.  This idea clicked with me immediately since I am such a visual learner, I think images enter my brain on a fast track while words need translating first.  So I started making them as plans for the day or the week, drawing the parts that are easily visualized.  I’ll show you some – later.

 

For now: Recipe Sketch (real sketch this time!):

 

 

 

See what I mean?  The drawings don’t have to be perfect, the point is not that they achieve any particular proficiency at all (good thing because my first potato looked more like a mutant amoeba), the point is that I’m practicing and if I keep practicing I will necessarily get better!  I’m in love with these visual lists, I find them really playful, letting my brain roam in new directions rather than just spitting out one item of “to do” after another.

It seemed like a good time to bring these two together since stock is one of the few foods NOT crying out for me to photograph it.  And, if you’re cooking anything vaguely traditional for Thanksgiving, you’re likely to have a lot of these ingredients on hand.

Do you draw for fun, or add visuals to other things?  Please share what you put in your veggie stock, I’d love to have more ideas!

 

Saving Pumpkin Seeds

 

 

I’m kind of jealous of my friend Tom, who grew about 2 dozen pie pumpkins in his yard this year, here in Flagstaff!  He has been sharing them, which has been great, but I still found myself wishing that I had dozens of pumpkins too – wait a minute!  I have a yard, I have some grey water, and we were home enough this summer that it might have worked, plus it wouldn’t be too much work for our house-sitters.  So, I saved some seeds.

 

After reading directions here and here, I picked out and rinsed the seeds in cool water, then spread them out on this cookie rack.  At first they were plump and glossy, but after a week or so they have flattened out somewhat and the skins are crinkley & papery.  I think I’ll leave them out a little longer.  Further bulletins as events warrant!

Storing Herbs in the Fridge

 

Ok, one more thing related to our super haul from the last farmers’ market last week.  It’s also related to a big bag of assorted herbs that some visiting relatives left at our house this summer.  They were from the garden, and I made it my “herb challenge” to use every one, and in some cases to figure out what they were.  After having fresh oregano in pasta sauce, rosemary potatoes, lemongrass syrup for soda, and tarragon butter – the finale – I decided this was way too much fun to stop just because we got to the bottom of the bag, and I’ve been buying more fresh herbs ever since.  They just add such a punch of round, fresh flavor.

This tip for storing them is something we figured out last fall while visiting friends in Bend, OR.  You know how basil wilts in the fridge pretty much immediately?  Well, the farmer at one stall told us to try putting the stems in a jar with water in the refrigerator, which we did – and it wilted immediately, maybe even faster than in a bag.  I was telling this story to another farmer the next week and he said, “But, did you put a plastic bag over the top?”

Aha!  This works amazingly well, like some kind of magical super-cold greenhouse.  Put the bag loosely over the herbs, and then use a rubber band to keep it tight to the base of the jar.  For basil, I also trim the stems just a bit like I would cut flowers.  The basil in this picture is already a few days old, it will stay fresh for about a solid week.  The other herbs have so far all been eaten before they show signs of wilting.

Hope this inspires you to add some fresh herbs to your fridge!

Update: If your basil stems aren’t long enough for a jar of water, I’ve had good success keeping them sealed tight in a plastic bag in the fridge, with just a little moisture inside.  If it seems dry in the bag, I sprinkle in a little water and distribute it by gently mixing the leaves around, then seal the bag again.  This works in a cooler too, as long as the leaves don’t touch the ice.

A Good Way to Open a Pomegranate

 

 

Sunday was the last farmers’ market of the year here.  Bryan and I went together, and pretty much went nuts (pun intended?) on all the fruit and veggies we could buy.  “Hon,” I said, “That’s a lot of tomatoes.”

“Well,” he said, “I don’t think we’ll have a problem eating extra tomatoes!”  You know the produce is beautiful when it’s not just me taking pictures of it, the professional photographer in my house is getting into the act as well, and buying extra tomatoes for the purpose.

Anyway, our fridge and pantry are pretty much stuffed, and we have a whole tray of pomegranates.  I love pomegranates.  I like the whole idea of them, like hidden treasure.  And, of course the taste!  Luckily, they grow in the valley not too far from here.

Especially with this method, the lovely seeds are not too hard to get at.  The idea of soaking them in water came from The Joy of Cooking, source of much good kitchen knowledge.

 

 

Step 1: slice off just the tops.  If you hit a few seeds don’t worry.  Score around the sides to the bottom in sections.  You’ll cut fewer seeds if you use the naturally more indented places as a guide for where to score.  Go all the way through the peel.

 

 

Step 2: drop the scored pomegranates into a bowl of water.  Leave them alone for about 15 minutes, or longer if they have been sitting around for a while and the skins are dried out.

 

 

Step 3: pull one out of the water, and gently break it open.  When you come back, the skins should have softened, and the whole thing will feel more elastic when you attempt to pull it open.  It may help to use a knife or your fingernail to break the connection at the top center.  Then, just tug on a section until it breaks loose.  Pomegranates respond better to a steady pull than to a hard yank.

 

 

Once the fruit cracks open, whole flanks of seeds are exposed.  Rock and push them gently with your thumb, sections of seeds will loosen and break off at once.  Any that are shriveled or cloudy are not as good, just leave them on the peel.

 

 

The red seeds (from the pinkish fruit) are the classic pomegranate tart with a little sweetness.  The pink seeds (from the yellow fruit) are much milder and sweeter if you can find them.  For eating out of hand, I think a mix of about half and half is ideal.

They also make a lovely treat with desserts, or on my morning fruit and yogurt.  If you need another excuse to get one, try this salad, really unusual flavors, but we and our friends quickly grew to love it.  Equally good with butter lettuce, and either honey mustard as suggested, or good quality balsamic and olive oil.  And, we subbed a small kabocha squash the first time we made it, with good results.

Really, have you ever seen anything so lovely as a plate of pomegranate seeds?  I could have easily spent the whole day photographing fruit . . .

 

 

Chile Freezing Time

 

This topic is a bit specific to my home place, the Southwestern USA,  at least I think it is – let me know if you live elsewhere and you can get fresh roasted chiles!  Around here, roasters set up outside at the farmers’ market or in a parking lot this time of year, and fill the air with the most incredible smell, a smoky autumn aroma that draws me like a magnet and reminds me of all the best things about crisp fall days and warm New Mexico comfort food.

This is what’s called “green” chile, fresh rather than dried, and usually green colored too, although as you can see I like to wait until they start turning red and ripe to buy mine.  My absolute, all-time favorite are these “sugar” chiles from Whipstone Farm.  Sweet and hot at the same time, they have just the most amazing flavor, especially the red ones.

Whatever kind you can find, I like to freeze them whole, spaced out on a cookie sheet or broiler pan.  When they’re solid, I get them out and pop them off with a spatula (it helps to wait just a minute out of the freezer), and put them in plastic bags.  Back into the freezer they go, to last me all year.  I got this idea from freezing blueberries on a sheet, so that you can get out just as many as you need.  I love pulling out a chile or three, and this way once they thaw, they are still intact enough for stuffing with cheese or other goodies.  And, I don’t have to worry about pulling out all the tops and seeds before freezing, I just process them as I thaw and use them.

This is the first and probably easiest, possibly most rewarding, food stocking up/saving/preserving I have done so far!  I highly recommend it.

Kent State Museum and Ohio Food Finds

I feel like it took me a while to figure out that if I saw, for example, a cool exhibit was happening at a museum somewhere, especially in the Midwest, chances are we could go there at some point during the year. That’s how we ended up at the Kent State Museum. What I didn’t realize was that in addition to the resist dye exhibit I read about, the whole museum (ok it’s small, but still) is costume and textiles, and they have a permanent hall of historical fashion!! For any of you who don’t already know, I’ve been obsessed with historical clothing for the longest time.

Everything is presented in the best possible way for close-up viewing, with no glass between you and the textiles. My feet were demurely (ok barely) outside the barriers, but my head was basically in the exhibits, soaking up tiny hand stitching. Things made before the sewing machine I find extra fascinating, I’m always wondering how my stitching would stack up in those days. And how did they make those tiny perfect gathers?

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As you may have guessed from the lack of detailed images of all this amazing clothing so far, this museum has a strict no photography policy. And I have a “do unto others” policy when it comes to photos and copyright. And any iPhone photos I could have snuck in on the sly would in no way capture the level of detail that you can really see. If we’re going to the area next year I may try to get advance permission to take some photos, or bring a sketchbook. But really, the only way to see this is for yourself.

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We stumbled on a couple of notable food finds in Ohio as well, namely Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Splendid is the right word! We tried four flavors, all of which were spectacular – tart cherry sorbet made with lambic, pear sorbet with Riesling, blackberry and sweet corn, and brown butter almond brittle, and there were about 50 more that looked amazing. Well worth going out of your way for, in Columbus, Cleveland and Nashville TN, plus available in groceries around the area.

That’s actually how we found out about it, while shopping for bread and cheese to go with a free tomato. One of my goals for this trip was to snag some maple syrup local to somewhere we passed through, since we’re all out at home. On a byroad we passed a maple syrup sign at a place that mostly sells small storage buildings (I am not making this up) and stopped to get some. The man working there kindly also gave us a large tomato. So anyway, as we were picking out cognac fig goat cheese (from Mackenzie Creamery) Bryan spotted a sign, “Did you know that cognac fig is also a flavor of Jeni’s Ice Cream?”

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This picnic will make you feel decadent, even at a highway rest area. Just as good with apple as with the tomato the night before!

Enjoy your travels this week, wherever they take you.

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What Are We Doing Here Again Exactly?

Suddenly, after our Lancaster, PA art show, we had time off. That was weird in itself, since we spent all of August at home running around like mad chickens trying to get things done in time, then flew to Detroit, picked up the truck, drove to Pennsylvania, set up the show, etc.

So now, we are in part of the country I’ve only been to once before & know almost nothing about. After doing the laundry, filling up on water, etc., we set off to find something to do with ourselves, get some food & explore the surrounding towns.

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They still had peaches at Brook Lawn Farm Market – and apples, tiny pattypan squash and fresh lima beans! Oh for a stove! This time last year we were in the Pacific NW, doing 3 shows, hanging out with some of our dearest friends, and cooking up fresh delicious food together. Hard to beat that!

Despite the lack of close friends and cooking equipment, we pressed on, doing some more exploring.

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Are you sure we’re still in America?

We bought Bryan a guitar-lele for playing & composing songs on the road. He’s afraid I’ll be annoyed, but so far, staying up singing adds a fun & homey touch, especially when we’re camping out in the Wal Mart parking lot.

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We visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania – really interesting with helpful volunteers. Breaking slightly with our usual pattern of not leaving a museum until they kick us out, we left just before closing so we could make it to the Bird in Hand Farmer’s Market, where we settled on crackers and cheese to go with our tomatoes from the day before. Crusty bread was not available, but goofy T shirts were . . .

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We sat outside and ate and watched the buggies and tourists go by. As we were getting ready to leave, this hot air balloon took off from the next field and went right over our heads.

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At this point in the year, I’m ready to get off the ride, go home where I can see people I know and play in my studio when I have free time!

But our travel time is not quite up for this fall, there are still a few adventures for us before we head home. We set up for another show this afternoon, so that ought to keep us busy for a few days.

In the meantime, if you hear some tinny guitar music coming from a little white box truck, come over and say hi!

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