30 July 2009

Daring Bakers

Recipe: Mallows
Recipe origins: Gale Gand
Nicole of Sweet Tooth

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Apologies are in order. Actually, doubled apologies are in order...

Nicole: I am sorry that I'm posting this late--I was just too emotionally fatigued to get this post up in time (and too busy to do an auto launch).

Nicole: I am sorry for the travesty that occured as a result of my attempt at your challenge.

Well..."travesty" is harsh. The end result was perfectly edible and those who had some (my colleague's darling children (and perhaps her hubby as well...never really quite sussed out if he got any) were quite happy to gobble up the goodies.

I'm familiar with Gale Gand's recipes (here's my review of her tome Brunch)--I know they work. I know they are tasty. So the collection of minor bumps became a set of big, lumpy, chocolate-coated treats that resulted from this challenge are all of my own doing (and maybe a bit of credit should also go to Beelzebub). Tasty, big, lumpy, chocolate-coated treats.

Not sure what happened to the biscuits. I looked at the recipe and thought they were very much like snickerdoodles (pronounced "schnickertdoodles" by a favourite person of mine). Given they were the base of marshmallow-topped cookie, I'd assumed that they were to remain flat and not like the over-inflated biscuit cushions that emerged from my infernal oven. Don't get me wrong--they were delicious and very snickerdoodle-like--but, like the perfect man, my mind's eye painted a picture that in reality was nowhere true.

No worries. The bottoms were flat. I can work with flat bottoms

What I wanted to do was have a little cherry surprise in the centre of the marshamallowy goo. I suppose if the cookies stayed little, it may have worked, but...when I put the cherry on the biscuit, it was like putting a green pea on a throw pillow. It was rather ridiculous looking and, I feared, would be akin to getting a mini puzzle in a KinderEgg instead of the really cool space robot...nice, but unsatisfying. I decided to chop up the cherries and mix them into the marshmallow goo before piping billowy quantities onto each base.

After about 10 minutes of wiping down my kitchen walls and cupboard of sweet and foamy spatters, I looked at the remnants of my bowl's contents and was...incredibly disheartened. My little handmixer was as warm as a freshly steeped cup of tea and the marshmallow was...liquid.

Not a good "oh this will pipe and set up fine liquid" but a "can I bottle this and convince people this is a new unfizzy soda that's de rigueur in Hollywood, Tokyo and Terre Haute (or Drayton...take your pick)" liquid.

I'd never made marshmallow before (apart from the marshmallow icing Dorie's White-Out Cake).

I don't think I'm cut out to be a candy maker. Candy eater: yes. Candy maker: no.

I suppose if I could turn back the hands of time, I would have chopped the cherries an mixed them into the marshmallow and then let the entire mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the gelatine to set, instead of taking couple of hours of deep thinking, punctuated by the occasional snoozy sound followed. Yes, I take my marshmallow pondering seriously.

Instead, the marshmallow set rather determinedly and no amount of hoping and pleading would allow the chopped cherries to magically transform the mallow mixture to something soft and cushy into what ended up being vaguely reminiscent of ugly pomo architecture: pink, a bit shiny and a mess of corners and curves.

There was no real point of piping the mixture, so I just spooned the mallowy mixture onto each cookie and set them in the freezer while I mixed the couverature.

Again, I don't know what I was thinking when I measured out the ingredients...because I put in too much fat and the chocolate just stayed liquid. After letting each chocolate-dipped treat set, the chocolate was still very soft, so the tray stayed in the freezer until ready to photograph, eat and parcel off to the colleague.

As I said before, they tasted great...they just looked weird.

Click here for a list of participating Daring Bakers.


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24 July 2009

Julia's oeufs à la bourguignonne

"It's called microblogging--all you do is very quick updates about what you're doing."

Ummm...yeah. (That was me two years ago, when I first heard of Twitter)

I checked it out and all I saw were a lot of "Just got in from a great night out!" and "Finished dinner. Kids in Bed. All's quiet." and "Waiting for the movie to start" type posts.


I had better things to do.

And in the intervening years, it became the new online it-thing to do. I was still skeptical about it all. But in these two years, it became less about bursted updates and more about community building and knowledge sharing. This is something I could be interested in.

After having a post or two of mine Tweeted and ReTweeted, I decided to give it a shot. I'd known there was a pretty thriving food community there: food is one of the topics groups coalesce over, so I was pretty sure I'd find yet another online home. I was right.

No, don't worry, I'm not going to evangelise about microblogging. All I'll say is that I'm having fun with things, communicating with others, challenging myself to the 140 character limit and trying a few different writing techniques--my favourite thus far is the serial--sequential posts that tell a tale in real time. As usual, if my longposting schedule leaves you hungry for more of my inanities in bite-sized portions, you can find me @cardamomaddict.

Anyway, our dear Hélène of La Cuisine d'Hélène mused about a Tweeted and blogged event celebrating Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the Julie and Julia film. Truthfully, I don't follow that blog and when I perused the book I thought the writing was pedantic and lacklustre. Yes, I know they're popular--they're just not my cuppatea.

But the idea of a Julia Child blogging event kept hold of my imagination.

To participate all we had to do was blog a recipe from either Volume One or Two of Julia's influential books.

Problem. I don't have a copy of either--they are on my "eventually I'll get to them" list. No copies were found at any of the used book shops I checked and I really didn't want to drop $50 on either tome. Desperate to participate the answer came to me: in the thousands of foodish posts housed on the interweb should be a number of recipes from these two tomes.

I was right.

Shari of Whisk came to the rescue with this post that lists a number of Julia Child recipes as posted by various bloggers. Given my own time and pantry constraints, along with a craving for gooey-centred poached eggs, I found my entry recipe for oeufs à la bourguignonne, courtesy of Melissa of The Traveller's Lunchbox.

Really: mushrooms and bacon in a red wine sauce with poached eggs. It combines so many of life's good things...why would I choose anything else to celebrate Julia?

Red wine sauce is incredibly simple and goes wonderfully with eggs, beef and chicken and really should be part of the usual repertoire. Of course the ideal is to make your own beef stock, but I used water-soluble squeeziebeefie. The sauce didn't take that long and can be left to its own devices for most of the time it's on the hob. I made a full recipe, keeping leftovers in the fridge to be used with a bit of beef and umm...for dipping torn bits of bread and bagel into.

Thanks Hélène for organising the Mastering the Art of French Cooking event. If you're interested in what others are doing, please visit her round-up.


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19 July 2009

On My Rickety Shelves: Seasonal Food

Thanks to the lovely people at Random House Canada, a copy of this month's selection appeared on my doorstep.

Seasonal Food: A Guide to What's in Season When and Why
By Paul Waddington
Eden Project Books/Random House Canada
256 pages; $21.95

The ongoing dirge that announces and mourns (the inaccurately collective) "our" lost memory for food has been playing for a while, its needle skipping every so often, occasionally doing a whole dustbunny sweep across the album of (again, the inaccurately collective) "our" psyche.

As big business jumps on board to brand themselves as socially-responsible, with their earnest yet sparkly social media marketing-driven communications plans and advertising budgets, I find myself numbed to the hyperbole, distrusting every corporate-shined message I encounter. Don't get me wrong, food is incredibly important and I think we should be interested in what we eat, but like any message constantly broadcast, I become immune and disinterested.

Much has been written and broadcast contrasting what used to appear on tables, with what appears now, along with the various feel-good, blame-absolving movements that result. Some border on the cult-like: locovorism/100-mile dietism and organics; others seem like roleplaying: pulling out your front flower bed for carrots and cabbages, and home preserving.

But when you distill these, the concept of "seasonal eating" rings true. Essentially globalisation and advances in botanical and agricultural sciences have blurred seasons, making pretty much any food available at any time. If you've never gardened or been in contact with the natural food cycle, it could be confusing. Paul Waddington's Seasonal Food hopes to eliminate this barrier and help people think more about eating what's currently in season.

Waddington's style makes the book a pleasurable read. His introduction leads the reader through a quick history of food industrialisation and the basics of globalisation but also the importance of the Earth's natural cycle on plants and (as a result) animals. Probably my favourite section in the preamble is "The Seasonal Pig" and documents the once-important porker, fattened for an autumnal slaughter to its current fate as omni-seasonal, factorized fare.

Most of the book lists seasonally-available foods, organised by month. Descriptions are conversational and cover features like flavour, growing conditions and how to enjoy these ingredients. With some foods, such as leeks, pumpkins and Jerusalem artichokes, he provides simple and workable recipes. I've not cooked any to his suggestions, but in perusing them, I could tell they were easy and would work well.

What I particularly like is his inclusion of meats in his seasonal eating lists. To be honest, I've not put much thought into seasonal meats, and when I do it's primarly spring lamb and autumn and winter turkeys.

There is one caveat I feel I must make, simply because I suspect it will throw some people off. This book was created for the British marketplace. As such there are terms or foods referred to such as rocket, medlars and aubergines which some readers may take issue with. Also because it is British-focussed, what grows in their seasons may not map correctly onto what grows in the non-British reader's seasons.

Regardless of where you call home, this is a good reference book to have on hand when faced with ingredients and why something may not taste as good now, as it did when it was actually in season four months ago.


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15 July 2009

Stir fried broccolini

First, a couple of bits of news.

New Yorkers can now experience a bit of Canada, now that Tim Hortons has set up stakes in The Big Apple. Why am I mentioning this? In all the hullaballoo this little blog was mentioned not once but twice by some pretty well-read sources. Both the Gothamist and the National Post's The Appetizer linked to my Dutchie doughnut post (IMO, the quintessential Canadian doughnut).

I've finally gotten off my juicilious behind and started Tweeting. Yes, I know...I've been looking at doing this off and on since I first came across it two years ago, and decided to hop on a branch and challenge myself to the 140 character limitation--a tight writing excercise if there ever was. So, if you're looking for more of my inanities and mundanities (but in bite-sized portions), you can follow my omnivorous Tweeting @cardamomaddict. (No, I don't know why my "following" patchwork has three images, while the full list is actually greater).

Back to the matter at hand.

Keeping detailed recipes has never been my strong suit. When I cook for myself I just put things together until they taste "right"; my kitchen diaries (my hardcopy ones, not Sensual Gourmet:Kitchen Diaries) will usuall have a list of ingredients, devoid of quantities or techniques. My baking pagers will have quantities, a temp and rough time, but no technique.

Like watching reality TV, reading anything by Dan Brown or listening to Celine Dion, keeping such detailed notes goes against my grain.

But unlike watching reality TV, reading anything by Dan Brown or listening to Celine Dion, I try my best to make notes specifically for foods I hope to post about. Sometimes my best isn't good enough.

Take today's post about stir fried broccolini. I could try and employ "spin" and employ one of the most hideous of all communications crutches by saying "I'm giving you, Dear Reader, permission to break the confines of weights and measures and let your gut guide your palate and just let you fly free and easy with the base ingredients."


I didn't write down how much of what I used.

But it was good. So, Dear Reader, I offer you another non-recipe recipe. This time, for stir fried broccolini. Basically lightly steam the broccolini and remove the spears to a dish, make a sauce out of the rest of the ingredients, reduce it down and then reintroduce the veggies. Warm through and toss to coat.

Stir fried broccolini
one of jasmine's non-recipe recipes

a few spoons of water
one minced garlic clove
minced ginger
oyster sauce
chilli-garlic sauce
soy sauce


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12 July 2009

Comfort and Restoration: Sadness and Loss

At a time when Walk Like an Egyptian (The Bangles), I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston), and I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany) dominated pap-ladened Top 40 radio, CFNY played Strangelove (Depeche Mode), Girlfriend in a Coma (The Smiths), and Just Like Heaven (The Cure).

Back in the day they embodied The Spirit of Radio: music that pushed boundaries; they were alternative when the term actually meant something…long before marketing departments and hired gun PR firms made alternative as commonplace as painted lines on asphalt and as exciting as a tub of wallpaper paste.

This week The Spirit of Radio lost a dear friend and vehement crusader.

Martin Streek, a long-time DJ at the station died this week. It was sudden. It was unexpected. I, along with a number of fans, feel a friend and familiar companion is lost.

I never met him: he wouldn’t know me from Eve; I didn’t even know what he looked like until this week. But he was a constant in my life for more than 10 years.

Back when I commuted to Toronto, he was a welcome companion on my many long hours home. He hosted a few different shows, but I can still hear his baritone over the crowds as he broadcast from The Kingdom and other clubs on Live to Air.

His passion and understanding of new music was phenomenal. He was charming, a dry wit, smart and genuine—you can’t fake passion or knowledge. He promoted independent acts when he could and introduced us to so many new and fabulous artists. By doing so, he influenced countless listeners’ music preferences, something that will carry on for the rest of our days.

I haven’t listened to him in nearly eight years, but I will add my voice to the chorus of those who feel his loss, and who thank him, for everything.

I fully admit that his passing is magnified by the simple fact that this month marks two years since
My Darling One died. Memories of those days before and after flood my mind with increasing frequency, and will for the next few weeks. If there’s ever a time one needs comfort and restoration, coping with the loss of a dearest is one of those times.

I couldn’t cook for myself—I’d lost my ability to pull together the simplest of meals...I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea. Meals magically appeared, courtesy of my Dear Little Cardamummy. Friends took me out for lunch or coffee. My dear, sweet colleagues left parcels of sweets and pastries at my desk, often anonymously. Everything was appreciated, deeply.

The foods I wanted generally fell within the "easy and uninvolved" category. As long as I could dish it out, I was fine. If I had to fiddle with several pots or cooking techniques (or, really anything beyond microwaving), it wasn't going to be good.

When I did look for something to eat, I wanted three tastes: salty, sweet and buttery/fatty. I suppose it makes sense, as stress leads many of us to crave such foods. Cups of sweet tea, buttered breads, salty soups and buttery mashed potatoes were what I gravitated towards. Not everyone responds in this way. Some people can't stop eating and others don't want anything at all.

At a time when eating was something I wasn't looking foreward to, it was something I knew I had to do. As horrible as it may sound: Life goes on, and for my life to go on, I had to eat.

There’s no prescription of foods for the bereaved. It’s an individual choice, based on preferences and culture, so I cannot pretend to formulate a survivors’ menu. All I can say is feed them, preferably foods that can be reheated several times without losing too much (casseroles, lasagnes, meatloaves). Your kindness will be appreciated more than you will ever know.

So no. No recipe today. Not even a picture of food for you.

Instead, I’m leaving you with a music video, in memory of Martin. He was a fan of some great bands: NIN, Tool, The Clash...but I found myself listening to Depeche Mode today, and this one seems appropriate:

There are a number of articles and posts and a memorial Facebook site dedicated to Martin and his passing. I've found posts written by three of his colleagues from his days at CFNY/The Edge, for those of you who remember, or would like to know more...

Alan Cross: Martin Streek: This Charming Man
Kneale Mann: Thoughts about Martin Streek
Carlos Benevides: R.I.P. Martin Streek

RIP, Martin


18 July 09 Update: 102.1 The Edge (CFNY rebranded) will air a tribute to Martin tomorrow, 19 July 09 from 5pm - 8pm ET. Details.

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08 July 2009

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

Those who know me, know I've an indiscriminate gluttonous streak that needs little coaxing.

Those who don't know me, but hear of my surprise office treats automatically assume everything that passes my lips is artisinal this, heirloom that, slaved over the hob for hours before being perfectly plated. To them "Jasmine" and "potluck" never mix.


The fact is I love communal eating. It goes beyond snagging a long table in the caf or going around the corner to the roadhouse for a 15-minute-or-free lunch deal. To me it's all about sharing food made for friends and friends-to-be.

If I'm in an office potluck, without the luxury of proper refridgeration or a stove, I try and pull together nibbles or something that doesn't need heating. I prefer to not bring desserts and my fear of slow cookers pretty much means that I won't be bringing in a hot main.

For our last potluck I wanted something that I could make the night before, be meatless and could be kept in a cooler until serving. I also didn't want to bring in a pasta salad in its usual state--mine simply get glooshy and stodgy and would probably be best as some sort of biodegradable stucco. My decision: soba noodles--they're nuttier in flavour and sturdier, able to soak up dressing without falling apart as easily as regular wheat pasta.

The flavours are "pan-Asian" and can easily be tweaked to make it a little more Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese or Japanese, I suppose. It's up to you. I wanted to ensure there was some protein, so I doubled the dressing quantity, using half to marinate firm tofu before grilling it, which, apparently, was what was needed to convince the non-tofu eaters that bean curds are, in fact, edible.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

1 tsp sesame oil
4 dspn rice wine vinegar
4 dspn soy sauce
juice from half a lime
1 Tbsp brown sugar
half a thumb ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced

200g uncooked soba noodles
1 julienned carrot
2 spring onions, sliced
half a bell pepper, julienned
half a jalepeno pepper, minced
1Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tsp toasted nigella seeds

100g grilled tofu or chicken, marinated in the equal amount of dressing as above, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Mix the dressing ingredients together.

Break the noodles in half and cook according to packet instructions. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Combine noodles, carrots, bell pepper and spring onions and optional tofu or chicken with the dressing. Cover and set in the fridge from one hour to overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with jalepeno and toasted seeds.

(1dspn = 2tsp = 10ml)


RIP, Martin Streek

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05 July 2009

For Annemarie: I made a cherry grunt for you

I returned to blogging a year and a half ago, not sure what to expect after a six month absence. My bloggy friends were waiting for me with open arms, as did new readers, as warm and comforting as a mug of steaming hot chocolate on a cold winter's day.

One of those new readers soon became one of my dear friends.

In Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar I found a kindred spirit--someone with a love of (and a respect for) words, another patient sighing life observer and someone who's not afraid to tackle pretty much anything in the kitchen

I have no idea how many emails have passed between the two of us. We laugh. We moan. We snark. She was there for me on the first anniversary and held my hand (and patiently read my accounts) as I returned to the dating world.Truth be told, I sometimes feel sorry for her...after I've hit "send" and have unleashed a 2000+ word torrent detailing the minutiae of my existence, railing against whatever has caught my attention.

After all that, I was more than a tad surprised when she agreed to be my co-hostess for last month's Daring Bakers Challenge. Really...you'd think that someone who's heard that much of my life would run screaming at the prospect of running an online event with me that could have 1000 participants. That poor brave girl agreed. I think it was sleep deprivation from being a new mum.

A better partner I couldn't have asked for. We were of the same mind when it came to challenge and quickly agreed upon the tarts. Every once in a while I'd toss a recipe her way to test and she'd toss back her comments and suggestions. She's gifted with words and came up with great additions to the tome of a challenge post. She pretty much looked after monitoring the DB Challenge forum; she answered questions and offered words of encouragement and advice to everyone who posted questions, concerns and comments.

Now that we're on to the next challenge and back to our regular blogging and regular lives, I was left with one question. How do I thank her?

Well...with a post and a treat...how else?

Ever since Rodney MacDonald, Nova Scotia's former premier, tried to lure David Letterman to the maritime province, with (among other things) a blueberry grunt in his Top Ten a year and a half ago, I've had grunts on the brain.

For those of you who haven't had one, a grunt is essentially cooked or stewed fruit, with a baked dumpling-ish topping. The name is probably from the grunting sound the fruit makes as it releases its last gasps of air and collapses into a warm, softened state, underneath its cakey, dumplingy or biscuitty blanket.

Since I've been anticipating our local cherries (soon, I hope), I've had cherries on the brain. The road side fruit barker has set up his wares and although he's selling American cherries, they are much cheaper and in much better condition than what I can find at the bigscarymegamart. Luckily enough, our dear Annemarie loves cherries.

Ideally I'd make a cherry grunt with sour cherries, but they are elusive creatures and won't be around for a few weeks. Instead of using canned sour cherries, I decided to use the barker's sweet fare and mimicked some of the sourness by using a combination of wine and balsamic vinegar in the stewing liquid. If you don't want to use wine, I'd either use sour cherry juice or use water or apple juice and increase the balsamic vinegar to a dessertspoon or possibly a tablespoon. I'm also fresh off a cobbler run so I was more than heavy handed when adding the milk (150mls) to the dumpling batter, making it much looser than it should be. So my grunt looks more like a cobbler...no matter, I think Annemarie would forgive me.

Cherry Grunt

550-600g pitted cherries
60g brown sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
100ml wine
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
140g ap flour
50g sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
60g softened butter
75ml milk
slivered or chopped almonds (optional)

Combine cherries, brown sugar, cornstarch, wine, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the honey. Turn off the hob and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder, a couple of pinches of salt and butter until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the milk and mix until combined.

Pour the cherries into a 2L baking dish. Spoon the batter over top, letting gaps appear so the cherries will ooze through and allow their last gasps of breath. Strew with nuts.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden.

Umm...Annemarie...I did want to send you some, but umm...this is all that's left...

You can tell whenever I've made a cherry dessert with real cherries...there's always at least one pit found...I call it "the lucky pit."


What I'm reading: The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

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01 July 2009

Happy Canada Day! Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

I dithered over what today's post should be--last year Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess and I co-hosted Mmm...Canada: she took care of the sweet and I, the savoury. I truly wanted to host it again this year, but I realised that hosting the June Daring Bakers' challenge would be pretty much all the online eventing I could handle right now. I'll do my best to bring it back next year.

I wanted celebrate our nations 142nd birthday with something fun and touched upon a national favourite. Last week's warm spell pretty much sealed the deal on it: ice cream.

There's something about this luscious, creamy and slightly drippy treat that coaxes smiles out of the most sour of faces. Limitless flavours single notes, others mix a couple of different ice creams, fruit-embued, candy-studded, ripples and ribbons and of course some are rather nutty...quite the analogy to Canadian society, n'est-ce pas?

So, to celebrate our national day, I offer you a seat in the back yard, a long cool drink and of course some home made chocolate mint ice cream. Happy Canada Day!

For a list of Canadian food and drink bloggers please visit my Canadiana page at SensualGourmet.ca.

Chocolate Mint Ice cream
Roughly 1.5 litres
625ml milk

250ml heavy cream
40g mint leaves
250g sugar
5 egg yolks
pinch of salt
100g milk chocolate, chopped
100g semisweet chocolate, chopped

Scald the milk with the mint leaves. Remove from heat and let stand, off the hob for about 20 minutes.

Combine the sugar, yolks and salt until ribbonny.

Carefully temper the egg mixture with the hot milk by slowly adding a ladelful of milk to the sweetened eggs, beating constantly, to avoid scrambling. Repeat a few more times, eventually just pouring in the remaining milk and mint. Beat well.

Pour the custard mixture back into the pot and cook until it has thickened and passes the back of the spoon test by running your impeccably clean finger down the back of the spoon's bowl while it has been covered with a layer of custard. If you draw a clear track that does not fill back in, then you're fine.

Pour the hot custard brine over the chocolate bits, letting them melt and mix well.

Cool the brine, overnight in the fridge.

The next morning seive out the mint leaves and whatever scrambled eggs have formed.

Whip the heavy cream until medium-stiff. Fold, one third at a time, into the cool chocolate mint custard. Keep it as light as possible, but try and ensure there aren't any white streaks.

Decant into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.


What I'm reading:
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

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