Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

Pasta, Recent Posts, Recipes, Vegetarian | February 16, 2018 | By

Next to avocados, cold sesame noodles is one of my all-time favorite foods. Often, I crave that nutty sesame taste with light but rich silky noodles. My first introduction to sesame noodles happened during my college years when I was living in the West Village of New York City. I had very little money to spend so I often looked for food that was within my meager means. Next to spending $2 for a falafel sandwich, cold sesame noodles was the next best deal.

My favorite sesame noodles came from a tiny restaurant in China Town called Little Szechuan. These noodles were light and not weighted down with peanut butter and sesame paste. They also had a great spicy kick. To this day I have not had sesame noodles that even compare the Little Szechuan’s noodles.  Often, I walked from my apartment on West Street in the Village to China Town just to have these spicy Szechuan noodles.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

Cold Sesame noodles, a recipe.

Little Szechuan was a tiny restaurant located in a remote area of China Town. At most it had a total of 6 tables and was located on a hidden narrow street leading to another meandering road. I can’t remember the name of the street or how I knew about it. Yes, it sounds odd to describe a place in Manhattan as “remote”, but they exist, even on an island populated with over 8 million people.

Because I adore anything made with sesame seeds, it is not a hard job researching and testing recipes for the perfect cold sesame noodles. My main criteria are, they are not thick and gloppy with peanut butter. I want to taste the toasted sesame and not be weighed down by a pasty sauce. However, peanut butter is an important ingredient in sesame noodles because it keeps the sauce emulsified, like Dijon mustard does in a vinaigrette. Without peanut butter, the tahini or sesame paste will taste chalky and dry.

Cold sesame noodles, a recipe.

As I researched and tested many recipes over the years, I discovered they usually share the same ingredients. The main difference is how many of the specialty Chinese ingredients are used vs a more available substitute. The main differences come down to the proportions of each ingredient to get the deep umami and spicy flavor without feeling like you just ate a brick.

Unfortunately, if you want to make cold sesame noodles you must buy some specialty ingredients. The primary ones are the dark sesame oil and the sesame paste or tahini. The other ones are easier to work around. For instance, instead of Chinese sesame paste use tahiniBlack vinegar has a deep dark flavor that adds a nice element, but rice vinegar is much more common and affordable. I specified garlic chili paste  but chili oil is as common in most recipes. Or you can make the garlic chili paste or chili oil if you prefer. It is a lot to think about and these ingredients do add up, so do what is best for you. The good news is, if you invest in buying some of the ingredients like sesame oil, it will keep for a long time in the refrigerator. Also, there are other recipes to use them in.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

I am feeling guilty asking to buy all these specialty foods. Fortunately, some of them are easy to get at your grocery store and might already own them. Soy sauce, tahini (Jayva brand is usually next to the peanut butter), and natural peanut butter are widely available. Rice vinegar is also located in the grocery with the other types of vinegar, or in the International section.

The other crazy thing is the packaging of the noodles. Unlike dried Italian pasta, most Asian noodle brands come in different size packages. I have seen them in sizes ranging from 5 oz to 12 oz. However, the amount of dried noodles or pasta you buy does not need to be exact.  It is my opinion, the amount of sauce in this recipe is perfect for 10 ounces of noodles. If you need to make more, just double or make one and a half times the amount of sesame sauce to nicely coat your noodles. After you made it once you will learn how much sauce you need. You can find Asian noodles at the grocery located in the International food section and at Asian markets. You can also buy as many packs of dried Ramen noodle soup you want and throw out the seasoning packet.

Serve cold sesame noodles with

Pork Fried Dumplings, Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach, Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms, Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Cold sesame noodles are great for family gathering, vegetarian meals, or vegan dinners if your noodles don’t have eggs. When I want a more substantial meal I add shredded pieces of cooked chicken to the noodles for some extra protein. Other vegetables like broccoli also taste great with cold noodles.

Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe.

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Cold Sesame Noodles

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Meal

Cuisine: Chinese

4-6 servings

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold sesame noodles have a nice toasted sesame flavor and a great slippery texture. I love to pair crunchy cucumbers and daikon, or watermelon radish will these nutty noodles for a contrasting crunch and refreshing bite against the smooth and rich noodles. If you like your sesame noodles spicy, add more of the chili garlic paste to your liking.

Add some shredded cooked chicken meat for a light dinner.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz Chinese Lo Mien, Ramen, or spaghetti noodles
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin on a diagonal. White and green parts
  • 1 medium (5 - 6.5 oz / 145 - 190 g) seedless cucumber
  • 2-inch piece of daikon radish, or 1- 2 (3 oz / 88 g) watermelon radishes, or carrots
  • 2 TBS (21 g) toasted sesame oil,* extra to coat the cooked noodles
  • 3 TBS (46 g / 150 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 TBS (25 g) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 TBS (40 g) tahini or dark sesame paste
  • 1 TB (21 g) smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1-2 tsp (4 - 8 g) brown sugar
  • 1 TB (18 g) chili garlic paste*
  • 1 tsp (2.5 g) Chinese black vinegar8
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, green germ removed and minced or grated
  • 1½ - inch (4 cm) piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • roasted and salted peanuts rough chop, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

Instructions

    Prep your vegetables
  1. Peel and scrape out any seeds. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut each half in quarters. Cut each quarter into 1 - 2-inch (2.5 - 5.5 cm) strips. Set aside
  2. Peel the radish and slice into very thin disc less than 1/8-inch (2 mm) thick. Cut each disk into matchstick size strips. Set in a small bowl filled with ice water. Set aside.
  3. Take the sliced scallions and add to a small bowl filled with ice water. Keep the scallions and radishes in their ice bath for 15 minutes, or until you assemble and serve the sesame noodles. Set aside.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to the directions. Some noodles take 3 minutes to reach al dente, some take 10 minutes. If you are using the curly lo mien noodles stir with a fork to help separate the noodles without breaking them. Be careful not to burn your hand and overcook the noodles. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse in cold running water to stop the cooking. Once the noodles are cooled, shake out any excess water and carefully dump the noodles on a clean flour sack towel, or other lint free kitchen towel. Carefully pat the noodles lightly dry.
  2. Plop the cooled noodles into a large mixing bowl add 2 teaspoon of dark sesame oil and using clean hands carefully toss the noodles until nicely coated. Set aside.
    Make the sauce
  1. In a medium mixing bowl add the toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste or tahini, peanut butter, brown sugar, chili garlic paste, black vinegar, minced garlic and minced ginger. With a wire whisk, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth and incorporated. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning with using any of the sesame sauce ingredients you wish, if needed.
  2. Add about 2/3 of the sauce to the noodles and toss with your clean hands to evenly coat the noodles. Taste and add more sauce if needed.
  3. Drain the scallions and radishes and pat dry.
  4. Add most of the remaining vegetables to the noodles, leaving some for a garnishing. Toss with your hands to mix together.
  5. Scoop the cold sesame noodles out of the bowl and onto a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, cilantro if using, and remaining vegetables.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Do ahead note- If you make this in advance. Mix together the noodles and the vegetables and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make the sesame sauce and cover with plastic wrap and keep on the counter until ready to serve. Add the sauce to the noodles right before serving.

Notes

There are two types of sesame oil. One is light in color and the other is darker because it is made with toasted sesame seeds. This recipe uses the darker sesame oil and is found in health food stores, Asian markets, or the international food section at your grocery store. Store dark sesame oil in your refrigerator, especially if you do not use it that often. My favorite brand is Spectrum and found in Health Food Stores, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods.

Chili garlic paste is found in most Asian markets and similar too Sambal Oelek. You can substitute these items with Hot Chili oil if you cannot find them. Add a little and taste as you mix the sauce, then add more as needed. If you want to keep your costs down and already have Sriracha sauce, use that instead. It has a very different flavor from the garlic chili paste but it does have a nice spicy flavor.

Black vinegar is also a specialty item found in Asian Markets. It has a very strong flavor and adds some great depth to the sauce. I totally understand if you want to skip out on buying it, but it will last forever in a cool pantry and is used in many Asian food recipes.

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A recipe for Cold Sesame Noodles

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

The first time I saw my husband drowning his rice with soy sauce, I knew I needed to find a way to change this habit. No matter what we were eating if there was white or brown rice, the soy sauce came out of the refrigerator and set at the table. The irony is, he did not pour soy sauce on his rice when we ate Chinese food. For some reason, rice bathed in soy sauce really bothered me, especially when our sons followed his example. To me it was like adding a tablespoon of table salt to the already seasoned rice. All you would taste is the soy sauce and not the rice. Basmati or jasmine rice have such a clean flavor and is a lovely compliment for the main entrée at its side. It is a shame to disguise the clean flavor of this comforting grain.

From that moment, I changed the way I cook rice. Unless I am serving rice with a stew or a saucy entrée, I usually cook rice in vegetable or chicken stock and add some sautéed mushrooms and green peas. The mushrooms add subtle flavor and usually compliments the other parts of the meal. Even those perks can get mundane if it is a regular item with dinner. It is time to switch things up.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe

Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

Recently, I discovered Patricia Wells’ recipe, Crunchy Jasmine Rice from Master Recipes, and I had to try it. Often, I garnish rice with pistachios or almonds and fresh herbs, but it never occurred to me to cook rice with nuts or seeds because I thought they would get soggy. Surprisingly, the peanuts kept their crunch after cooking with the rice. This recipe is brilliant in its’ simplicity and has an addictive nutty flavor. Besides the great taste, one of the best features of this jasmine rice is once the water boils, the rice cooks in 10 minutes. At first, I did not believe it, but it is true the rice cooks in 10 minutes. The rice wasn’t hard, mushy or chalky, just sweet grains of jasmine rice with the peanuts and seeds cooked to perfection.

The only change I made was to add fresh minced herbs like parsley and celery leaves. The fresh herb flavor gives an extra punch of sunshine to the nutty rice. The next time I make it I want to add some golden raisins soaked in red wine vinegar. The sweetness from the raisins and a touch of acid will really liven up this side dish.

Crunchy jasmine rice is a wonderful side dish with just about anything like grilled meats, roasts, chicken and fish. If you are allergic to peanuts substitute them with cashews, walnuts or hulled pumpkin seeds. Serve crunchy rice immediately or turn it into a rice salad with raisins, chopped vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Dress the rice salad right before you want to serve it.

Serve Crunchy Jasmine Rice With:

Oven Poached Sole Wrapped in Fresh Herbs

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

How to Make a Vegan Entrée with Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Most plant foods do not have all twelve of the essential amino acids, commonly known as the proteins. Vegetarian and vegan diets benefit from food combining. Honestly, all diets benefit from food combining. When eaten separately, legumes and grains come up short providing all 12 of the essential amino acids. When combined in one meal they compliment each other nutritiously and as well as flavor. What grains lack in essential proteins, legumes have. Jasmine rice mixed with peanuts and seeds become a foundation for a complete vegetarian meal.

I like to mix additional legumes like lentils with crunchy jasmine rice for a vegetarian or vegan main entrée. I add about 1 – 2 cups (250 – 500 ml) of cooked Du Puy, or Pardina lentils, to the bowl of crunchy jasmine rice. Then, I make a rice bowl with the rice and lentil mix and add some fresh and roasted vegetables.  Top it off with some tahini dressing. Tahini dressing happens to be one of my favorite dressing and accentuates the nutty flavor of the rice.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 13 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Meal

6 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup for a side dish

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

For those moments when plain rice just isn't enough. This is a great rice side dish with a nutty flavor. If you can't eat peanuts, walnuts or cashews would taste great. Or, make it nut free and substitute the peanuts with hulled pumpkin seeds.

Serve this as a side dish with just about anything like chicken, fish, beef or lamb. Or as the foundation for a delicious vegan or vegetarian entree with lentils, roasted vegetables and tahini dressing.

This recipe is from Patricia Wells, Master Recipes .

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (125 ml / 60 g) roasted and salted peanuts
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml / 250 g) jasmine rice
  • ½ cup (125 ml / 70 g) mixed sesame seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups ( 500 ml) water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • ½ cup chopped parsley and celery leaves

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop the peanuts and place them in a 3-quart sauce pan.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the heat on the stove to high. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Simmer until the rice is cooked al dente, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and add the cooked rice to a large mixing bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork and add the parsley and celery leaves.
  4. Serve warm.
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Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Who doesn’t love nachos? All that melty cheese, warm beans, salsa, avocado, and crispy chips just taste so good together. Unfortunately, when I order nachos in a restaurant the chips are soggy with rubbery cheese, and half the chips are naked. What is the point of getting nachos when most of the food on the plate are plain chips? It is like ordering a cheese burger and getting one partially covered with cold cheese.

Loaded Nachos, recipe

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

There is an easy solution. When I make nachos, I spread the chips in an even layer on a rimmed sheet pan, then cover each chip with bean spread (or refried beans), avocado, pickled jalapeño, and grated cheese. Once assembled, they bake in the oven until the cheese thoroughly melts. Why bother with this nacho assembly? Because it is just not a pretty sight, watching your family and friends wrestle and compete over the nachos covered in all that Tex-Mex goodness. With this process, no one gets stuck eating naked chips when they wanted the works.

There are several ways you can put these nachos together. One, buy the chips, bean dip or refried beans, and salsa already made, along with a couple of blocks of cheese and a ripe avocado. The only thing left to do is assemble and bake the nachos. Second, you can use a combo of homemade and store-bought items to make these nachos. The third option is, you can go all out and make everything from scratch.

My version is the second option. I made chips from store-bought tortillas and made the salsa verde. Everything else I bought. If you make everything from scratch, your nachos will have more nuance in flavor, especially the beans. However, these days it is easy to source good quality store-bought salsas, beans and chips. Why not take advantage of your resources? Whichever method you choose, buy the best quality ingredients you can afford.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Suggestions for making Nachos:

For my recipe testing, I discovered getting tortilla chips with a deep corn flavor depends on the tortillas you use. If possible, buy freshly made tortillas from a market or restaurant, and make the chips at home. Or, buy chips from a Mexican restaurant. Both options produce the best tasting chips. Nachos require thick chips that won’t break easily and not too salty.  Thicker chips hold up better. If you don’t have a Mexican market or restaurant in your area the store brand I had success with is, Simply Organic Yellow Corn Chips by Tostitos. However, the other corn chips by Tostitos are too thin.

Making your own chips requires some cooking skill, special equipment and deep-frying in 375° F (190°C) oil. You need an instant read thermometer, a 10-inch (25 cm)cast iron skillet, or Dutch Oven, or wok, and a spider strainer. If you do not have all the equipment, please don’t make the chips. Deep frying is tricky business and buying chips a lot safer.

I also provided a recipe for a raw salsa verde made with tomatillos, serrano chilies, onion, garlic and cilantro. The recipe is from Tacos by Alex Stupak, but my method is different. (You can read my cookbook review on Tacos, here.) Instead of using a mortar and pestle, I made the salsa with an immersion blender. It was a breeze and finished in fifteen minutes. Sometimes, tomatillos are hard to find. I found tomatillos at my local Asian vegetable market, but I also saw them at Whole Foods. If you can’t find them substitute with your favorite store-bought salsa verde or red salsa.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Traditionally, nachos are made with refried beans. I used a black bean dip instead. Feel free to use what you like. The beans should be thick and somewhat smooth, so it stays put on each chip. The store brand I used was Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa. It was a little too thin, but it still worked. Look for a black bean spread or dip. If you prefer using refried beans, just remember refried beans are made with lard, so if you are serving vegetarians or vegans, find or make a vegetarian one. Here are links for home-made refried beans, and vegan refried beans from Serious Eats.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Helpful Tips Serving Nachos:

  • Serve nachos immediately. If you are entertaining, have all your ingredients made and prepared. After all your guests arrive and settled down, assemble the nachos then bake in the oven. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble and 4 minutes to bake. Serve right away. This isn’t an appetizer which is placed on an hors d’oeuvres table and forgotten about.
  • Pass these appetizers around, or place in the center of a coffee table where everyone is sitting. Nachos are best eaten immediately. The longer they sit the soggier they become.
  • Make sure you grab a couple of nachos for yourself before they disappear. Maybe this is because I am more familiar with the eating habits of teenage boys, college co-eds, and athletes, but appetizers like nachos quickly disappear.
  • For a small cocktail party make one tray at a time. If you want more for later, make another tray just before you want to serve them. My sheet pan fit 24 chips.
  • Don’t forget the pickled jalapeño . A slice of pickled jalapeño on each nacho makes all the difference between good nachos and great nachos. They add some heat, and the acid brightens all the other ingredients.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

 

More appetizers: Crispy Potato Skins with Cheese and Pickled Jalapeno, Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Loaded Nachos

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Category: Appetizer

Cuisine: Tex-Mex

6 servings

Serving Size: 4 chips

Loaded Nachos

Everyone loves nachos with lots of melted cheese and fixings. To make sure every person gets a chip loaded with all the nacho goodness, I have assembled and baked the chips in a single layer. With this recipe, you decide if you want to purchase all the ingredients or make the salsas and chips from scratch.

If you rather not make your own tortilla chips buy restaurant style, or thick tortilla chips that are not too salty. The thicker chips stay crisp and won't break as easily.

Serve immediately with creme fraiche and salsa verde.

Ingredients

    Tortilla chips
  • 3 cups (675 ml )canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 fresh corn tortillas (or thick cut, restaurant style store- bought tortilla chips)
  • Kosher salt
    Nachos
  • 4 oz (125 g) cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz (125 g) pepper jack cheese
  • 24 tortilla chips, Homemade or store bought
  • 16 oz (453 g) jar bean dip or refried beans
  • 1-2 ripe avocados
  • 24 - 48 slices of pickled jalapeno peppers
  • Creme fraiche (plus some milk for thinning)
  • Salsa verde
    Salsa Verde (or store-bought salsa verde)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3-4 tomatillos, about 5 oz (150 g)
  • 2 serrano chilies
  • ½ white onion, minced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 handful of cilantro, minced

Instructions

    Tortilla Chips
  1. In a cast iron skillet, Dutch Oven, or wok, add the oil and heat until the oil temperature reaches 375°F (190°C). Stack the tortilla chips and cut them into quarters. When the oil is hot, add a few chips to the oil and cook until starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the chips over to the other side and finish cooking. Use a mesh spoon, or spider and remove the chips from the oil and place on paper towels to dry. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt over the chips while they are warm. Continue until all chips are fried.
    Nachos
  1. Pre heat the oven to 425°F ( 218°C) with the rack in the middle position. Line a large rimmed sheet pan (18" x 13" / 46 cm x 33 cm) with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. Prepare your garnishes of creme fraiche and salsa verde
  3. Add the creme fraiche, or sour cream, to a small bowl and add the milk a tablespoon at a time and stir. Continue to add just enough milk so the creme fraiche will easily drizzle over the nachos. You do not want it too diluted, but the creme fraiche drizzles easier when it is slightly thinned out. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until ready.
  4. If you are making the tomatillo salsa do so now before you bake the nachos. See recipe below.
  5. Grate the cheeses using the large holes of a box grater, or food processor. Place the grated cheese in a medium size mixing bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.
  6. Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  7. Spoon a tablespoon of bean dip over the center of each chip, spread it out into an even layer.
  8. Slice an avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Thinly slice each avocado half lengthwise and scoop out the slices with a spoon. Arrange one slice of avocado over each chip covered with the beans. Depending on the size of your avocado, you might need to cut each slice in half to fit on the chips. I was able to get enough slices from one avocado.
  9. Place one slice of pickled jalapeno on each chip, then cover them with grated cheese .
  10. Place the sheet pan with the chips in the oven and bake until all the cheese has fully melted, about 4 minutes.
  11. Immediately place the nachos on a serving platter and serve with the creme fraiche and salsa verde. You can drizzle the salsa verde and creme fraiche over the nachos and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro, or you can serve the creme fraiche and salsa verde on the side.
    Salsa Verde
  1. Peel and mince the garlic. Sprinkle the garlic with the salt and use the side of your chef's knife to make a pulp with the garlic. Move the knife back and forth pressing the side of the blade on the garlic and salt until the garlic turns into a smooth pulpy consistency. Add the garlic pulp to the bowl of a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.
  2. Husk, wash and dice the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos in the bowl with the garlic.
  3. Add the minced onion.
  4. Cut the Serrano peppers in half lengthwise and cut off the stem. If you want a milder salsa, remove the seeds and the white pith. They contain most of the heat, especially the pith. Mince the serrano chilies and add them to the bowl with the tomatillos. Add the honey and process all the ingredients until you get a smooth salsa, or to your desired consistency. Stir in the minced cilantro and pour the salsa into a small serving bowl.
  5. Serve immediately or cover with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Homemade salsa is best used the same day it is made. If several hours pass before serving, hold off from adding the cilantro until just before serving.
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Loaded Nachos with black beans, avocado, pickled jalapeno slices and grated cheese.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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