RECIPE: Progressive Dinner for Feb 1

gardenladJanuary 28, 2007

Due to popular demand, the due date has been changed to Thursdays. Here are this week's assignments:

Drinks & munches: VaGardenGirl

Appetiser: GardenLad

1st course: Fearless Em

Soup: San

Salad: Annie

Entree: Woodie

Side 1: Cindy

Side 2: WizardNM

Dessert: DancesInGarden

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Oops, I wish I had gotten in on this. After talking with Cindy I think this would be fun...maybe next week.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 5:51PM
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Marilyn, we can still add you in, this week, without messing up the sequence. After that the logistics get hairy.

So, if you want to play, now is the time to jump in.

The new category will be Coffee And. And you have it. What that means is a coffee drink and a nosh to go with it. Recipe should be posted by Thursday at the latest.

Welcome to the party.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 9:09PM
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This week's appetiser takes a little time to prepare. But it's worth making the effort.

Onions Stuffed with Spinach & Pine Nuts

12 cippolini or other small, sweet onions
1/2 cup currants
1/2 tsp safflower oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb spinach, washed and stemmed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tbls orange zest
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbls fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs

Level the bottoms of the onions. Discard the ends and peel the onions. Cut a slice off the top of each onion and set the tops aside. With a melon baller or a grapefruit spoon, hollow out the onions. Reserve the centers.

Steam the onions shells until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife--10-15 minutes. Set the shells aside.

Meanwhile, put the currants in a small bowl and pour in just enough water to cover them (I actually prefer Marsala). Set the bowl aside to allow the currents to plump.

Finely chop the onion tops and centers. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not browned, five to seven minutes.

Add the spinach, cover the skillet, and cook until the spinach is wilted---about three minutes. Uncover the skillet, add the salt, and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated--five to seven minutes more. Transfer the onion-spinach mixture to a large bowl and let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Drain the currants and add them to the onion-spinach mixture. Add the yogurt, pine nuts, zest and nutmeg, and mix well. Pour out and discard any liquid that has accumulated in the onion shells, and spoon the stuffing into them.

Spread the remaining stuffing on the bottom of a small baking dish; set the filled onion shells on the stuffing. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the stuffed onions and bake the onions for 20-25 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and preheat the broiler. Broil the onions just long enough to crisp the bread crumbs.

Serve the onions with a little stuffing from the bottom of the dish spooned alongside each portion.

This has been adapted from a recipe that first appeared in the Time-Life book "Fresh Ways With Vegetables." The original calls for 6 medium onions. Prepared that way it makes a nice first course or side-dish. With the smaller cippolinis it's a great appetiser.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 7:47AM
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Oh good! Thank you so much but what is a nosh? I assume just a cookie or treat?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 8:27AM
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Yeah, that's about it. A nosh is a small bite, a nibble, something to fill in the corners, as they say.

Keep in mind the size of the meals we're producing, and you'll immediately get the idea.

I'm thinking the coffee drink should probably be the emphasis on this course, given how much other food there is. Unless the other players have a different idea.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:03AM
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I'm waiting on the entree before I look for a side dish.

Whatcha got in mind Woodie?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:08AM
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This is a tried and true recipe for two people, but I think its just as easy to use a couple of large saute pans and cook 4 or 8 beef filets at a time. Once you have all the ingredients measured and prepped and ready in front of you, it goes very quickly and its delicious! Thanks MQ, if you're reading!

Mark Bittman, New York Times

2 6-ounce beef fillets, cut from the tenderloin (filet mignon), preferably not too lean
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste (I added 1/2 t. extra because dh likes it)
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Lemon juice to taste, optional
Chopped fresh chives or parsley leaves for garnish.

1. Flatten fillets a bit with the palm of your hand, the back of a skillet or a small mallet; they should be about 1 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and a lot of pepper. In small skillet, preferably one just large enough to hold fillets, combine oil and tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When butter foam melts, sear steaks on both sides, just until browned, no more than 2 minutes a side. Remove to platter.

2. Wipe pan clean with towel; add remaining butter over medium heat, with shallot or onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire and cream. Add some salt and a fair amount of pepper. Stir once or twice, then taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Keeping mixture at a steady simmer, return meat and accumulated juices to pan. Cook, turning two or three times, until meat is done to your liking, just 1 or 2 minutes a side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate, and add lemon juice, if using, salt and pepper to the sauce as needed. Spoon sauce over meat, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve.

Closely related to steak au poivre, and best made with truffles (isn't everything?), it is about as straightforward, simple and impressive a high-class dish as you can make. If you and your date are meat eaters, you cannot go wrong with this.

The process is easy, nearly foolproof, and gives you a few options. Though you can follow this procedure with almost any tender cut of beef (and with chicken breasts, if that direction appeals to you), it's a perfect treatment for tenderloin medallions (filet mignon) for two reasons. Tenderloin doesn't have much flavor of its own, so there's nothing to overwhelm with this rich, flavorful sauce. And it is supertender, which makes it a nice cut for a juicy, saucy dish in which you're going to use a knife.

A couple of options: You can cook some mushrooms preferably wild, but shiitakes will do nicely  along with the shallots, and add a touch of garlic as well, if you like. And you can add a tablespoon or two of Cognac to the cream sauce and ignite it for a bit of a show. But I doubt you'll taste much difference or note a change of behavior; for that, you're better off drinking it.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 10:10AM
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Blue Cheese Coins
½ pound blue cheese, at room temperature
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Sift the dry ingredients.
Cream the butter and cheese with an electric mixer.
Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
Fold in the nuts by hand.
Drop the batter by heaping teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until golden.
Store the baked cheese coins in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 6 dozen - recipe easily halved!
Gewurztraminer to sip along with. ;)

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 5:47AM
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For Potatoes
6 medium potatoes
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 teaspoons butter or margarine
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese or cheddar cheese or gouda cheese
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chicken stock or milk
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 medium chopped onion
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. For Potatoes: Peel potatoes, cut in halves and boil in salted water until soft, but firm.
2. Drain and dry thoroughly by shaking over heat until moisture disappears.
3. Mash potatoes in electric mixture.
4. Add salt, pepper, butter or margarine, eggs, cheese, baking powder and liquid.
5. Beat until fluffy.
6. (you may need a little extra liquid to get these nice and fluffy, depending upon the type of potatoes that you use).
7. For Mushrooms: Saute onion in butter or margarine, until nicely carmelized.
8. Remove onions from pan.
9. Saute mushrooms until browned and they have released all of their liquid.
10. Mix with onions, salt, pepper and chopped parsley.
11. Note: I often make up my mushroom filling a day ahead of time and refrigerate. Soften slightly before filling.
12. Butter a pie plate or a small pyrex baking dish and Line bottom and sides of plate with about 1" mashed potato mixture.
13. Fill centre with mushroom mixture, cover with remaining potato mixture. Top with little bits of butter and a sprinkling of paprika.
14. Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed.
15. Note: This dish can be prepared in the morning, covered with plastic wrap and left at room temperature until baking time.

6 servings

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 6:23AM
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One of my favorite restaurants is Lawry's in Chicago. They are well known for their beef, so when I saw Woodie's recipe for the Stead Diane, I thought about the way Lawry's does their spinach, so here it is....

Creamed Spinach a la Lawry's

2 pkgs. (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
4 slices bacon
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 cups milk

Drain spinach well and squeeze out excess moisture with hands; chop finely and set aside. Fry bacon in heavy skillet until crisp; remove, drain and chop. Sauté onion and garlic in bacon drippings; add flour, Lawry's Seasoned Salt and pepper and blend thoroughly. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add spinach and bacon; heat.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

The other vegetable they always have is a creamed corn, also very good. I've recreated they dinner here at home numerous times.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:11AM
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Mmmm. Sounds good Nancy -- I must say I love Lawry's seasoned salt... Growing up it was what my dad put on every London Broil he ever broiled, and now I do the same -- just can't have london broil without it!

And I'm working on a first course, I promise!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 11:31AM
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It figures I'd eventually be assigned salad. I'm not a great lover of the tossed green salad. LOL This salad, however, I love and it gives something besides green since we already have green spinach in two courses. It came, I think, on the back of a McCormick spice peppercorn box.

Roasted Beet & Mandarin Orange Salad
4 servings

4 small beets
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Parsley Flakes (I use fresh if I can get it)
1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder (or a small clove, minced, fresh)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup mandarin orange sections, drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Trim beets, leaving 1 inch of stems and roots; wash. Place beets, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a self-closing plastic bag. Toss to coat beets. Place beets on a shallow baking pan; roast 40-45 minutes, or until fork tender. Cool, then peel beets and cut into approximately 1/2 inch wedges.

Whisk together orange juice,1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, parsley, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place one cup mixed greens on each of four plates. Top each salad with mandarin orange sections and beets. Sprinkle with walnuts and drizzle with dressing. Serve.

This is even better with fresh orange sections but here in Michigan we seldom get really good citrus so the canned mandarins are a viable solution.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 3:07PM
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I am jumping the gun before all the courses have been posted. My original idea when I saw I had been assigned dessert was just too heavy for this meal, so I am saving it for another time ROFL.

It seems this lineup could be a romantic dinner for two, or a special occasion dinner for a small group. But the courses are so heavy, a rich heavy dessert would be too much.

Something light, but decadent. Sweet but not cloying. Complimentary to the courses but not detracting. A HA! Pavlova! Meringue shells topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Light, sweet, and lovely to look at. Make individual shells so you can put them together as you need them (I would divide into eight shells, if you make only six they are just a tad too big for a single serving, in my opinion). Or, make one large shell if the entire dessert will be eaten right away.

The first time I made/tried this, it was from a recipe given to me by a Cooking Forum member who ought to know from Pavlova, as she was from the part of the world where it originated. Her recipe was wonderful, but alas I have lost it. I have since tried other recipes and all have tasted as heavenly as I remember. The recipe I have included here does not call for cornstarch but it still works well, even with pasturized eggwhites from a carton. I tested it again today to make sure.

Stabilized whipped cream
Adapted from the knoxx gelatine website

You can just whip some cream with a touch of sugar, but I like to make it ahead of time and mine usually deflates unless I stabilize it with gelatine.

1 envelope unflavoured gelatine (about 1 tbsp)
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup whipping cream (a small container)
up tp 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Put a narrow metal bowl into the freezer to chill.

Mix the gelatine with the cold water, stirring well. Allow to sit about 1 minute. Pour in the boiling water, stirring constantly until all the granules are completely melted. Measure 1/4 cup of this mixture and set aside. The rest can be used for another purpose or thrown away. Or, double the amounts of the cream, sugar, and vanilla and make a bigger batch.

In the mixing bowl, stir together the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until thickened. Drizzle in the gelatine while beating. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. This is roughly right about the time you think this stuff will NEVER whip and wonder if you have done something wrong, by the way. Happens to me every time LOL. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. It may deflate a bit when scooped and the texture isn't exactly the same but it won't disappear like plain whipped cream when made ahead.

Meringue Shells
Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (checkered binder)

3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
dash salt

Place the eggwhites in the mixing bowl and let sit for about 1 hour, or until room temp.

Add vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt. Mix on medium speed with whisk attachment until soft peaks form.

Add sugar about 1 tbsp at a time while whipping at high speed, until the sugar is almost dissolved and stiff peaks form (the book says about 7 minutes, mine took longer).

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Trace one large 9 inch circle or 8 3 inch circles on the backside of the paper (place the pencil side towards the cookie sheet). Pipe or spoon the eggwhite mixture into the circles, building up the sides to make a shell shape.

Bake in a 300 degree F preheated oven - 45 minutes for one shell or 35 minutes for small shells. Turn oven off, and allow meringue to sit in oven for one hour with the door closed.

Remove from oven, and carefully peel off paper. They may be brittle. You may store shells in an air tight container for a day or so.

Assemble the pavlova(s)
Meringue shells
Stabilized whipped cream
Sliced fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi and blueberries are our favourite and acceptable year round in the grocery store. Even better made with fruits in season)
Powdered sugar and additional whipped cream for garnish

Place the large shell on a pretty serving dish, or a small shell on a pretty dessert plate. Most directions say to place the fruit first, then the whipped cream. I prefer to mound the whipped cream, then add the fruit. You can arrange the slices of fruit and blueberries in a decorative pattern but I like to just sort of tumble them on, rather than make it look like a french tart LOL.

Sift just a touch of powdered sugar over the fruit (looks lovely when you use strawberries and blueberries), and pipe on a few rosettes of additional whipped cream if you like.

This is best if eaten right away, but we have eaten it the next day and it was still good. The texture wasn't quite the same, but we enjoyed it none-the-less.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 6:41PM
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hmm. based on woodie's choice of the main course, i decided i didn't want a cream soup but something that was fairly light and straight-forward. hope this will work for some of you!

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup (4 servings)
(based on the Barefoot Contessa)

4 or 5 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
4 or 5 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
several grindings ground black pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
1 T basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 C chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with a bit of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Carefully pour half into an osterizer/blender or process with a "blitz stick" until coarsely pureed.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 6:43PM
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Dances, I had the same feeling about this meal needing a light dessert which is why I worried about the "nosh" to go with coffee. I decided to down play the nosh because of it and went with a crispy Ladyfinger topped with a smear of Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread). The coffee is the star here. We enjoyed it tonight after a dinner of salmon and broccoli.

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups brewed Star Bucks Espresso blend ground coffee
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons Kahlua coffee liqueur
4 teaspoons Cognac

Whip cream with vanilla extract to soft peaks.
Pour coffee into 4 beautiful clear glass cups.
Into each cup, stir 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon Kahlua and 1 teaspoon Cognac. Spoon whipped vanilla cream on coffee in each cup and serve immediately. This is a great after dinner treat.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 12:02AM
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Dances, I have question about your lovely dessert. Why do you have to stabilize the whipped cream? I make a simple version of and have never noticed a problem with the whipped cream. I don't assemble them until ready to serve though so maybe that is why?


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 12:20AM
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Looks good, Marilyn.

The thing is, if whipped cream stands for any length of time it self-destructs, sort of melting into a liquidy mess.

I almost said "deconstructs", but, after that thread over at CF, figured I better not. :>)

What amazed me about Dances recipe is how quickly she makes the meringues. I normally think of them as "cooking" at very low heat (200-250 degrees) for several hours.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 7:00AM
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That is quick, mine take a total of 3 hours.

People I don't think believed me over on the CF once when I told them my cream kept for a whole week. I think it must be because I us powdered sugar which contains cornstarch...don't know but it works. I also whip it my hand.

Either way, that is a great, light dessert for this meal.

Cindy, those potatoes look really, really good!


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 8:23AM
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Three hours sounds about right, Marilyn.

The thing to keep in mind is that you're not really cooking meringue, you are drying it. So low and slow is the usual way.

That's why I'm so intrigued about being able to make them in a mere 45 minutes. I will be trying that soon.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 9:17AM
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Dances recipe says to leave them in the oven for 1 hour after turning it off, so it's only about an hour shorter. She also uses a higher temperature. I'm sure the end result will be the same. Thank you Dances for posting this.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 9:23AM
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About stabilizing the whipped cream. It will help keep it from melting. The texture and look of regular whipped cream is better, I do agree. But since I have a warm kitchen and usually want to make it ahead of time, this keeps it from returning to liquid cream before I can use it LOL.

The meringues from this recipe are very crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. The original recipe I was given was crisp on the outside, but deliciously marshmallow in the center. I think cornstarch, lower temp and longer baking/drying might be the difference.

Another note, would be not to oversweeten your whipped cream, because those meringues are very sweet.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:08AM
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Okay... So I mentioned my problems with appetizers... Same deal with first courses. You're going to have to forgive me -- what I'm posting bears a little resemblance to a salad, but I wanted to post something T&T, and I also think given that the meal is heavy overall, this is a nice light starter.

Zucchini Carpaccio
2-4 small to medium sized zukes (depending on how many people you want to serve)
Small container of whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
One bunch fresh mint
1-2 lemons
fresh ground pepper, coarse salt
extra virgin olive oil

With a vegetable peeler, peel zukes into many ribbons, peeling the long way. Arrange artfully onto small plates. Add small dollops of fresh ricotta on top. Chiffonade the mint, and sprinkle liberally over top. Add lots of fresh ground black pepper and coarse salt, then squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil. Finish with a healthy sprinkling of the toasted pine nuts.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:28AM
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Nothing to apologize for, Em. That sounds good!

One trick for this type of recipe, if all you can find are large zukes, is to make a quarter turn every time you peel the squash, stopping when you reach the seedy core. In fact, it's a great way to use up those giant zukes every gardener gets stuck with; using the thin slices as a substitute for flat pastas like lasagna and papparadelle.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 12:53PM
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I have saved some recipes..Thank you..and this am I made the Duchesse potatoes for this evening's dinner..
Fun thread..Lots to try..

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 11:57AM
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Tonight we made the Steak Diane. We enjoyed it as much a we did when I first made it. I've saved a lot of the other recipes but, you know how it is, you just can't make everything in one night - not when you're cooking for only 2 people! Tomorrow (for the Superbowl Party for 2) I plan to make the Blue Cheese Coins - yum, can't wait for that one!

The rest of the recipes will just have to wait until later.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 11:37PM
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