Thursday, July 07, 2011

markthalle im viadukt needs you!

Markthalle im Viadukt as spied from Tram 13 Dammweg stop

Anyone else been down to the Viadukt Markthalle yet? I saw it by chance while riding Tram 13 across town. It's a permanent food market open pretty much all day, every day (except Sunday) out near Escher-Wyss platz. It's Zürich's small time answer to San Francisco's Ferry Building or London's Borough Market or Madrid's Mercado San Miguel or Firenze's San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale or Barcelona's Mercat de la Boqueria.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

wasabi macarons and other weird stuff

coconut and wasabi macarons from Vollenweider

Vollenweider Chocolatier is kinda new in Zurich. I've passed by it a lot of times with my kids, but it looked a little too fancy for the stroller/roller crowd. I'm not saying I stick exclusively to grocery store cheapies. I enjoy occasionally getting special treats for my kids and don't cringe anymore when they gobble down delicate pricey sweets in under 30 seconds. I like to think I'm creating memories and if I'm lucky, developing a sophisticated palate. Oh, naïveté.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

back in the saddle, mango in tow

I've neglected this blog long enough. I've got lots of photos and info waiting in the queue, I've just been too lazy/busy/unmotivated to post. So let's give it another go.

Let's start with my new love for Aggarwal: Fine Continental Food (Kernstrasse 27 Zurich, a couple blocks from the Helvetiaplatz market). I started a little cooking club with friends and last week we cooked Indian food, which gave me occasion to finally visit Aggarwal, which according to its website "serves you with the finest food specialties from Asia and Africa, particularly India and Sri Lanka." I went there to buy: Asofoetida (spice that smells kinda like dill pickle relish), Fenugreek (smells like maple syrup), Moong Dal (special kind of yellow split pea, most popular dish in North India according to my cookbook), and Paneer (a basically flavorless cheese added to various curries). Shopping at an ethnic grocery is my idea of a good time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

baking ingredients in Switzerland

The Christmas baking rush inspired me to gather all the "baking in Switzerland" information in one place.

Ingredients you can find, but what's it called?
  • baking soda: aka Natron, available at any grocery, in packets near the other baking ingredients
  • baking powder: aka Backpulver, available at any grocery, in packets near the other baking ingredients
  • cocoa powder: aka Kakaopulver. Don't buy the similarly packaged version with sugar (aka Zucker) unless you are planning to make hot chocolate.
  • molasses: aka Melasse, but make sure you buy it at a Healthfood store, aka Reformhaus. Do not use the Coop Melasse, which is pretty disgusting. Only very dark "blackstrap" molasses is available here, so if you want a lighter flavor, substitute honey for part of the molasses. You could also substitute honey for all the molasses, but obviously the flavor will be different.
  • sweetened condensed milk: aka Kondensmilch gezuckert, with light blue packaging. Available at most groceries near the coffee creamers or boxed UHT milk
  • evaporated milk: aka Kondensmilch ohne zucker, with dark blue packaging
  • canned pumpkin: available for a short time around Thanksgiving at Globus, Jelmoli and some Coops. 
  • chocolate chips: most groceries carry some sort of chocolate bits near the baking stuff. You can get real chocolate chips from some of the Kosher groceries. You can also order them online. Or like most of us, simply cut up a chocolate bar.
  • semi-sweet chocolate: most regular chocolate manufacturers (like Frey & Lindt) make a chocolate bar called "Cremant" which is about 55% dark.
What you can't find (easily) in Switzerland:
  • vanilla extract: make your own or use vanilla sugar (substitute about 1 tsp of the sugar in your recipe for vanilla sugar). You can buy it at El Maiz but its very expensive. Friends have reported that the vanilla paste available at Migros and Coop is a good alternative as well.
  • brown sugar: make your own or order online. Don't get fooled the the wide range of "brown" sugars you'll see at the groceries. These are unrefined sugars that haven't been bleached white, but they are not soft like US brown sugar. Your recipe will miss the extra moisture. Occasionally you'll see Billington's Molasses Sugar at Jelmoli, Globus or Coop and this is real soft brown sugar. But it can be pricey, about 6sfr for 500gr.
  • pastry flour: not available, order online or import
  • cake flour: not available, order online or import
  • bread (high protein) flour: not available, order online or import. Or buy some Vital Wheat Gluten and add 1TB per cup of flour, which is what I do now.
  • unsweetened chocolate: not available (I've heard of one source, but I haven't verified it). For each ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 TB unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 TB butter or oil.
  • jello: available at El Maiz, Jelmoli sometimes, and the Kosher grocery on Waffenplatzstrasse.
Here are a few CH online shops where you can find US food items:
American Market
Taste of America
Taste of America

I'm sure I missed a few things, so leave a comment if you think of anything else that should be on this list or have another source that I've missed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

all whole wheat, all the time

100% whole wheat & standing tall - no squat, dense loaf here

The stars have aligned and I finally have 100% whole wheat sandwich bread recipe that I'm perfectly happy with. As you may know, make bread with 100% whole wheat is tricky because the bran interferes with gluten development. That means the bread often is dense and nasty. Most "whole wheat" bread recipes only use about 1/3 whole wheat, the rest white flour. But this 100% whole wheat bread is light and delicious. You won't feel like you are comprising at all. There are a couple tricks.

First, beat half of the flour with all of the liquid for a few minutes before adding the rest of the flour. This dramatically improves the gluten development. I first discovered this technique while watching my friend Megan make bread. I loved her bread and she gave me her Grandmother's recipe to try at home, but my version wasn't similar at all. So I watched her make it and there were all sorts of things in her method that didn't match the written recipe. Besides beating in half the flour, she added 4 more cups of flour than called for in the written recipe (it makes three loaves). She hadn't purposely written the recipe incorrectly. She just never got around to updating the recipe to match her real method; the written one was merely an outline to her real process. This could explain why so many recipes seem to be missing a secret ingredient.

Second, use vital wheat gluten to increase the gluten in the dough, improving the structure in the dough, helping the dough rise more. I've been slowly consuming my stash of VTG imported from the US. But Megan found an online source here in Switzerland. Of course, we had to buy it in bulk, but we split it with a few friends and the price with shipping worked out to about 15CHF/ kilo, a very decent price. It hasn't arrived yet, so hopefully we ordered what we thought we did.

Third, grind your own flour. This is not required; I've made most of my loaves with store-bought Volkornmehl and they are delicious. But I finally have a machine that will grind wheat and Megan found a farm in her neighborhood that sells their wheat berries for 1.70 CHF/kilo, a great price compared to wheat berries from the health food store which cost about 5CHF for 500gr. I brought home a 5kg bag, apparently very optimistic about my future bread baking. I think bread from freshly ground wheat does taste markedly better, as well as being much more nutritious (whole wheat flour degrades very quickly - some say it's only good for 24hrs after milling it).

I'm a sucker for cutely packaged food stuffs

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Adapted from Fanny Farmer's Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

Makes 2 loaves. This dough rises super fast, so watch it closely. If it rises too long, it will get too bubbly and the structure will be compromised. The dough may simply have lots of big air bubbles, or collapse on itself into a dense, gooey mess (I say this based on experience!).

1. Stir together in mixing bowl and let stand a minute to dissolve:
  • 3 cups warm water
  • ½ cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 2 pkg yeast (4.5 tsp)
2. Add and beat vigourously for 2 full minutes:
  • 15oz (3 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 5 TB vital wheat gluten
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1.5 oz (3 TB) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) honey
3. Add as much of the remaining flour to make a manageable dough:
  • 17.25 to 22.25 oz (3.5 to 4.5 cups) whole wheat flour
4. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Knead another 6 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Put into greased bowl and let rise until double in bulk, about 45-60 mins.

5. Punch the dough down, cut in half, and form each half into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pans, cover lightly and let rise just above the top of the pans (not too high or the dough will get too much air and it will collapse - it has happened to me many times!), about 45 mins. Preheat oven to 375F(190C).

7. Bake in a preheated oven for about 35-40 mins. Internal temperature should be about 195F. Do not overbake or the bread will be dry. Remove from pans and cool on rack.

- Will make 24 rolls on sheet pan, bake 375F for 25 mins
- Instead of water and the powdered milk, you can simply use 3 cups milk. You can also just use water without the milk powder.
- You can substitute oil for the butter if you are avoiding dairy.
- You can replace about 1-2 cups of flour with various grains or other flours, like oatmeal, rye, spelt, amaranth, millet, flaxseed. I almost always add 1/2 cup ground flaxseed.
- You can add more honey for a sweeter bread. You may have to add a bit more flour to compensate for the extra liquid.

Friday, May 21, 2010

market report

Is there anything happier than spring at the farmer's market? Here's some of what I got a couple weeks ago.

wild italian asparagus and picadilli tomatoes that taste just like candy!)

tiny new potatoes still in the dirt

sweet spring onion, so good roasted

fresh peas

my very happy lunch - sautéed asapargus, tomatoes and onions with leftover red quinoa with black beans and peppers

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laughing Lemon: November

My friends and I attended another "What's In Season" class from Laughing Lemon in November. As always, it was extremely informative and the food delicious. Thanks Jack and Silvia!

Some things I learned:

- soaking sliced brussel sprouts in water for about an hour before cooking makes them taste so much better. Anise or fennel make them taste milder and also aid digestion.
- persimmon: you can simply press the soft ones through a sieve and have an instant sauce. Yum!
- soaking cavelo nero (black kale) in salted water makes the tiny white moths fall off

lots of funky roots to try: ugly but tasty

my cooking friends getting their hands dirty

loads of butter for frying...

frying up potato cakes in the aforementioned enormous amount of melted butter

potato cakes all puffed up after a few minutes in the oven

salsify, aka "winter asparagus"

salad with persimmon, feta, red onion, pine nuts, and vanilla vinaigrette

main dish: roasted veggies, glazed salsify, kale and potato cake

pretty French style apple pie (with crème fraîche) for dessert

Thursday, October 29, 2009

improving on the nie nie mud cake

My friend suggested that I make Nie Nie's Mud Cake Magnifique by Tongue-n-Cheeky. And of course, I made it because I love special requests. The cake was delicious and not particularly complicated. But the recipe drove me a little crazy, what with the unusual ingredients (olive oil in a chocolate cake?) and lack of explanation for instructions that veered from the cake making norm. But despite this, the cake was a big hit and I've made it three times already.

With this experience, I do have a few improvements to suggest for the cake filling and frosting. The methods in the original recipe resulted in lumpy textures for me. It might have been user error, but regardless, the methods I've described below have given me better and more consistent results. I've also rewritten the recipes to include metric measurements so my local friends can easily make it. The original cake recipe can be found here.

Mud cake

This recipe uses a simple mixing method which make a lush, dense brownie-like cake. Don’t overthink it.

8 oz unsweetened chocolate (227 gr) - (or 5 oz/144 gr cocoa powder plus 4 oz/113 gr unsalted butter)
6 oz olive oil (3/4 cup, 177 ml)
14 oz sugar (2 cups, 397 gr)
4 oz powdered sugar (1 cup, 113 gr)
4 eggs
5 oz flour (1 cup, 142 gr)
3.4 oz cocoa powder (1/2 cup, 96 gr)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (above 5000 feet altitude, only use 1 tsp)
½ tsp baking soda
8 oz buttermilk (1 cup, 237 mL) - (or 1 cup warm milk mixed with 1 TB lemon juice, let stand 10 mins to curdle before using)

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease and dust with cocoa powder two 9in cake pans.
2. In double boiler, melt the chocolate and olive oil and mix until smooth. Take mixture off heat and bring to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, beat both sugars and eggs until well creamed.
4. Add the room temperature chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture and beat a couple minutes.
5. Add remaining ingredients and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans (approximately 27-28 ounces of batter into each pan).
7. Bake for 26-28 minutes, or just until center of cake springs back to the touch. Remove from oven. Allow to cool before inverting on a cooling rack and removing from pan.
8. Before layering cake, use a knife to gently cut away any uneven parts at the top or sides of the cake.

Some tips:
1 & 2. Line your cake pans with parchment paper so the cakes pop right out.
3. Use room temperature eggs. Take them from the fridge and let them sit 5 minutes in hot water before using.
4. Use magic cake strips around your cake pans to help them cook evenly and prevent the dome that has to be cut off.

Perfectly Smooth Chocolate Marscapone Cream Filling

The original recipe had you first whip the cold cream and cheese (you can't whip warm cream) then stir in the melted chocolate. This inevitably creates lumps of chocolate. Instead, the below method combines the chocolate and cream into a smooth ganache before whipping (a more traditional method used by every cookbook I own).

6.25 oz dark chocolate (60%), chopped (177 gr)
8 oz heavy cream (1 cup, 237 mL)
8 oz mascarpone (227 gr)
1.25 oz sugar (1/4 cup, 35 gr)

1. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate.
4. Stir the mixture until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
5. Stir in the sugar.
6. Chill until cold enough to whip, but not more than 1 hour (I read that if it gets too cold, the chocolate and cream will separate later).
7. Whip the ganache into soft peaks.
8. Stir in the marscapone.

You can use it immediately between the cakes or refrigerate for later use.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

original frosting: curdled texture and way too much sugar

better frosting with super smooth texture, whipped and unwhipped versions

I had a lot of problems with the original recipe – curdled texture, way too sweet, etc. The recipe below uses roughly the same ingredients as the original but employs a food processor method used by both The Cake Bible and Cook’s Illustrated that perfectly emulsifies the chocolate, cream, butter mixture. I’ve also drastically reduced the sugar, but of course, you can add more to taste

8 oz heavy cream (1 cups, 236 ml) – for denser, thicker frosting
~~~~ or ~~~~
16 oz heavy cream (2 cups, 473 ml) – for a lighter, fluffier frosting

11 oz dark chocolate (60%), chopped (312 gr)
2-4 oz powdered sugar (1-2 cups, 57-113 gr)
4 oz cold butter, cut into 8 pieces (113 gr)

1. Place chocolate in food processor.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmmer.
3. With food processor running, pour hot cream over chocolate. Process until combined, a minute or two.
4. Stop processor and add powdered sugar. Process until combined, about 1 minute.
5. With processor running, drop the butter pieces in through the feeding tube. Wait until the butter is combined before dropping in the next piece. Let the mixture process about 1 minute after all butter has been combined.
6. Now some options:
• If you used 8oz cream, you can cool the frosting to room temperature (about 1 hour) then frost the cake. The frosting will shiny and thick.
• If you used 8oz cream and prefer a lighter color and fluffier texture, chill the mixture until cold (about 1-2 hours) then whip until thick and spreadable. Do not overwhip or it will curdle!
• If you used 16 oz cream, you must chill the mixture until cold (1-2 hours) then whip until thick. Do not overwhip or it will curdle!

it's nice to have a friend to eat the extra batter

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

pretty summer soup

Back when I lived in California, I never felt the seasons come and go and I barely noticed when items like nectarines or summer squash arrived or disappeared from the shelves. Almost everything was available all the time. But in Zurich, I'm in a constant panic, buying much more produce that our small family can possibly consume, worried that some item will suddenly disappear, not to be dreamt of for months.

To help us consume the mountains of produce crowding me out of my kitchen, I've been trying lots of new veggie recipes. Soup might seem silly choice for summer. But I like it because I can cook it quickly in the cool morning, spend all day at the lake, then come home to an "instant" meal that tastes even better than when I made it fresh. My husband made it extra special with his fancy toothpick skills. It seemed a bit much for a meal that would be eaten on a shared TV tray at 10pm while we watched Entourage. But that's summer.

Curried Yellow Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime

from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop

You may be tempted, as I was, to skip the cilantro-lime puree. The soup is yummy without it. But the puree makes the flavors pop and it's so darn pretty. Just do it.

1. In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, heat until shimmering:
          2 TB olive oil

2. Add and cook until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes:
          1.5 pounds yellow squash, chopped
          1 medium onion, chopped

3. Add and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute:
          1 TB gingerroot, minced
          3 medium garlic cloves, minced
          2 tsp curry powder

4. Add and bring to boil:
          6 cups broth
          1 medium russet potato (about 8 oz), peeled and diced
          1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

5. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the potato is very tender, about 25 minutes.

6. Puree the soup in batches in blender until very smooth. Adjust the seasonings. You can serve it warm or chilled (refrigerate for several hours before serving). The original recipe suggest chilled, but I prefer it warm.

7. When you are ready to serve the soup (warm or cold), puree in blender until smooth:
          3 TB olive oil
          1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
          1 TB fresh lime juice
          salt to taste (I like mine rather salty)

8. Ladle the soup in small bowls. Drizzle some cilantro puree over each bowl and serve.

The soup can be refrigerated for several days.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I realized that I forgot to include the chopped scallions in the Black Bean Quinoa Salad recipe. So I updated the recipe to include that.

Also, I was recently reminded (by Cook's Illustrated) that most herbs are oil-soluble, meaning their full flavor isn't released until mixed in oil. So there might be reason after all to use a bit of oil in the salad. Next time, I'll try mixing the cilantro in a couple tablespoons of oil before mixing it into the salad. I'm curious to see if it makes a difference.

Friday, August 21, 2009

roast beef sandwich at Globus

On Thursday, I saw that the Bahnhofstrasse Globus has a guy outside with huge smokers and stacks and stacks of wood, making roast beef sandwiches. This was a combination I just couldn't ignore. Happily, I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't the best sandwich I've ever had, but it was definitely good grub and a nice change from the standard Zurich street food. I don't know how long he's been there or how long he'll stay. So check it out asap. He's got bbq sauce, but I think the chimichurri sauce is the way to go.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I heart quinoa

I've been trying to use a variety of grains in our diet and quinoa is certainly my favorite. Quinoa is a magical food with very high protein and a balanced set of amino acids, making it a complete protein, unlike wheat or rice. Plus it's tasty! Most health food stores in Zurich carry it. I've been using red quinoa from Vital Punkt (Stockerstrasse 38, Zurich) at 8.50sfr for 500g (about 3 cups) - ouch! But I heard Aldi is carrying regular quinoa right now for much cheaper. I need to stock up. Here's my new favorite recipe using quinoa.

Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Epicurious

Among other things, the original recipe calls for oil in the dressing, but I found the salad very tasty without it. The original recipe also uses a two-step cooking process for the quinoa, first boil, then steam. I tried it and while this method produces drier quinoa, it was basically the same and I prefer simply boiling and draining the quinoa.

1. Prepare quinoa: In a small bowl or sieve, wash 1 cup quinoa in cold water until water runs clear then drain.

2. In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and 1/2 tsp salt. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain quinoa in sieve.

3. In a large bowl, combine:
cooked quinoa from above
~2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned (two 15oz cans)
1 large red pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeño or serrano chilies, minced (not optional!)
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander (not optional!)
5 TB fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 tsp salt
4. Adjust seasoning. Chill until serving. I prefer it cold, but also at room temperature.

Quinoa with Dried Fruit & Nuts
Some of my friends tried this dish the other day, so I'm including this recipe although I don't have a picture. I serve this along with a baked sweet potatoes and sauted greens, like spinach or chard.

1. Prepare 1 cup cooked quinoa (see above for instructions).

2. Stir in:
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

fried zucchini flowers

Inspired by my last laughing lemon class, I finally made fried zucchini flowers at home. I was scared to do this before because I knew they were expensive and I didn't want to mess it up. I shouldn't have worried. It was easy.

I had been looking for zucchini flowers for a couple weeks at the farmers' market and finally saw them at Bürkliplatz, at a vendor on Fraumunsterstr nearest to the lake. They were 1.20sfr a piece, not cheap but not too expensive for a special treat. So let's get started (full recipe at the end). You start by mixing up a simple batter and letting it chill while you prep the flowers.

Fried Zucchini Flowers
adapted from Laughing Lemon

I made a few adjustments to the recipe because I didn't have some of the special ingredients on hand. The original recipe includes 20gr chickpea flour in the batter and uses sparkling water instead of tap water.

1 egg
150gr flour
salt & pepper
220ml iced water
2-3 liters peanut oil for frying
up to 10 zuchinni flowers (plan on 2/person)

To make batter: whisk egg until well blended, then whisk in flower and season with salt and pepper. Slowly add water and whisk until smooth. The batter should be somewhat runny. Put in fridge until ready to use (up to 1 day).

Prep your flowers: remove the spines at the base of the outside of the flower. Carefully remove the stamen from inside the flower. Cut off the woody end of the zucchini. You can also remove the zucchini and just fry the flower.

Heat your oil to 360F/180F in a deep, wide pan large enough to accommodate the full length of the zucchini and flower. One at a time, dip the flower and zucchini in the batter and let excess batter drain off over bowl. Carefully drop the flower into the oil. Repeat, only adding a couple flowers at a time so the pot isn't overcrowded and the oil temp doesn't drop. Fry about 3 mins until golden. Remove and hold over pot, flower down to let oil inside the flower drain out. Then place flower on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt. Serve them warm. They are not very good cold, so plan your menu accordingly.

Note: Since you already have hot oil, you might as well fry up anything else you have on hand. We cut up carrots and fried them up in the batter - tempura heaven! I wish I had some dough ready for doughnuts or fry bread. I considered frying up cheese and jalapeños but I restrained myself. This is not America.

You can also stuff the flower with a ricotta/parmesan/egg/herbs/breadcrumbs mixture before frying. I'm going to definitely try that next time.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

what's in season: june

I took another Laughing Lemon class last week (with 3 friends, yay!) and got even more excited about the summer produce than I already was. Here are some highlights. I forgot to take pics of the other yummy stuff like a watermelon drink, gazpacho, and zucchini stuffed phyllo pie, but this should give you an idea of the fun we had. Thanks Jack & Sylvia!

We made flavored vinegar with herbs, garlic, and chili. I have to wait two months before enjoying it, but it's pretty while I wait.

Tomato tasting - apparently June not great for tomatoes because Italian tomatoes are already done (best in March & April) and Swiss tomatoes aren't ready till July. But we still tasted several varieties, including my favorite Piccadilli (the tiny oval ones).

ratatouille waiting to happen - we ate it an hour later

cucumber tasting

Samphire, which goes under a variety of german names - meerbohnen, seespargel, etc. It's a crazy little plant that tastes like salt water. It's often served with fish. It was fun to see and taste some completely I've never heard of before.

Beautiful zucchini flowers, which always remind me of my first trip to Italy with my husband before our kids were born. I ate zucchini flowers for the first time at a fantastic little restaurant in Florence. We liked the place so much, we ate there two nights in a row.

zuchinni flowers, battered and deep-fried - I could eat these all night long

baked polenta with rosemary butter, I think

salad with delicious farm-fresh greens and lots off veggies like beets, kohlrabi, purple carrots, baby tomatoes

then we sit down and eat, starting with the salad

then ratatouille and polenta

then this sassy dessert - cherry clafouti

the dessert plate with cherry clafouti, roasted apricots, vanilla ice cream
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