Essential Knife Skills for Preparing Broccolini

Preparing broccolini, the slender, milder cousin of broccoli, requires precision and technique to enhance both its flavor and presentation.

Your knife skills play a crucial role in the cooking process, as they determine the consistency of size and shape, which in turn affects the evenness of cooking and the final taste of the dish.

Properly prepped broccolini not only cooks more uniformly but also absorbs flavors better, making it a visually appealing and delicious addition to any meal.

A chef slices broccolini with precision, using proper knife techniques

When working with broccolini, start by inspecting the vegetable for any tough ends or leaves that need to be removed.

With a sharp chef’s knife, trim the ends—usually about an inch from the bottom—and peel away any tough outer layers. This ensures each floret cooks evenly and maintains a tender bite.

Utilize a gentle slicing motion, using the knife’s full length, to cut the broccolini into desired sizes. These can be longer stalks for elegant plating or bite-sized pieces for a mix of textures.

Your objective is to make meticulous cuts that respect the integrity of the broccolini, presenting it as the star of the dish.

By applying these knife techniques, you can elevate the simple act of cutting broccolini into an art form that showcases your culinary prowess.

Uniformly cut broccolini not only cooks better but also creates a more flavorful and eye-catching dish.

Your dedication to honing these essential knife skills will be apparent in every vibrant green stalk that you prepare.

Broccolini Basics

In mastering your knife skills for preparing broccolini, it’s important to recognize its unique characteristics and its nutritional benefits. Let’s start with how to identify this vegetable and then look at the nutritional value it offers to your diet.

Identifying Broccolini

Broccolini, which you may also hear referred to as baby broccoli, is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli.

Unlike regular broccoli with its large florets and thick stalks, broccolini boasts long, slender stalks topped with smaller, more delicate florets. The leaves closer to the florets are tender and entirely edible.

Color-wise, look for a bright green hue; this is a sign of freshness.

Nutritional Profile

Broccolini not only enriches your dishes with texture and flavor but also offers a wealth of nutritional benefits. Here is a breakdown of its key dietary contributions per one-cup (about 148 gram) serving:

  • Calories: Approximately 35, making it a low-calorie addition to your meals
  • Protein: Roughly 3 grams, contributing to muscle repair and growth
  • Dietary Fiber: Provides about 2.4 grams, which aids in digestion and satiety
  • Saturated Fat: Negligible amounts, for a heart-healthy choice

The benefits of incorporating broccolini into your diet extend beyond these basics:

NutrientContent per cup
Calcium6% of Daily Value (DV)
Iron5% of DV
Potassium8% of DV
Vitamin COver 100% of DV

Broccolini is especially rich in vitamin C, which is crucial for your immune system, and it also provides beneficial amounts of calcium and iron to support bone health and energy levels. Including broccolini in your diet offers a flavorful way to improve overall nutrition.

Selecting Quality Broccolini

A hand holding a sharp knife, slicing through fresh broccolini with precision and care

When choosing broccolini, your goal is to find the freshest, most vibrant-looking bunches with crisp texture and intact leaves.

Grocery Store Tips

When you’re at the grocery store, look for broccolini with firm stems and bright green, unwilted leaves.

The florets should be tightly closed and dark green, without any yellow flowers.

  • Stems: Should be firm to the touch, not limp or rubbery.
  • Color: Rich green color throughout, both stems and florets.
  • Leaves: Crisp and intact, not wilted or yellowing.

Examining Freshness

The texture of broccolini should be crisp, snapping cleanly when bent.

Gently squeeze the stem; it should feel solid.

To ensure maximum flavor from your dish, choose broccolini that smells fresh and vibrant, not musty or sour.

  • Texture: Stalks should snap, not bend, indicating freshness.
  • Smell: Should be fresh, similar to regular broccoli but slightly milder.
  • Visual Check: Look for any signs of wilting or discoloration. Avoid bunches with these traits.

Remember, freshly ground black pepper is a great complement to the delicate flavor of broccolini, enhancing its natural taste without overwhelming it. Therefore, choose broccolini that will pair well with the subtle kick of black pepper.

Preparation Fundamentals

Broccolini being trimmed and chopped with precision, showcasing essential knife skills for preparation

For the best experience when preparing broccolini, your focus should be on proper washing and trimming techniques, selecting the right equipment, and understanding the initial cooking steps.

Washing and Trimming

Wash your broccolini under cold running water to remove any dirt or impurities.

Shake off the excess water, or pat the broccolini dry with paper towels.

To trim, lay the broccolini on a cutting board and slice off the tough ends of the stalks; usually trimming about an inch from the bottom is sufficient.

Inspect the leaves and remove any that are wilted or discolored.

Equipment Needed

For effective preparation, you will require the following kitchen equipment:

  • Sharp chef’s knife – for precise trimming.
  • Cutting board – to provide a stable surface for slicing.
  • Colander – to wash the broccolini thoroughly.
  • Kitchen towel or paper towels – to dry the broccolini after washing.

Initial Cooking Concepts

When you begin to cook the broccolini, start by bringing a pot of water to a boil if you’re blanching, or preheat a pan with oil for sautéing.

Introduce the broccolini to the hot water or oil only after it has been properly washed and trimmed.

This initial exposure to heat should be brief to retain the bright green color and crisp texture.

Cutting Techniques

A chef's hand swiftly slices broccolini with precision

When preparing broccolini, the right cutting techniques are crucial for achieving the desired texture and ensuring the vegetable cooks evenly.

Your knife skills will affect the thickness of the cuts, which in turn will impact the broccolini’s surface area and how it interacts with other ingredients in a recipe.

Knife Skills

  • Holding the Knife: Grasp your knife with a firm grip, using your dominant hand. The other hand should guide the broccolini, curling fingertips into a claw to keep them safe.
  • Types of Cuts:
    • Trimming: Use a sharp knife to remove the tough ends of the broccolini stalks.
    • Slicing: Hold the knife blade against the broccolini, tip on the cutting board. Employ a gentle rocking motion without lifting the knife to create uniform slices.

Cutting for Recipe Relevance

  • Determining Thickness:
    • Thicker cuts: Retain more texture and are ideal for recipes where broccolini is the star ingredient.
    • Thinner cuts: Create more surface area that caramelizes quickly, suitable for stir-fries and dishes where broccolini needs to cook fast.
  • Cutting Techniques by Recipe:
    • For Roasting: Cut into long, even pieces to ensure all sides caramelize uniformly.
    • For Stir-Fries: Dice into smaller pieces to blend well with other ingredients and absorb flavors.

Cooking Broccolini

Preparing broccolini properly can enhance its flavor and texture, whether you’re sautéing, roasting, steaming, or grilling. Here are methods you can use to bring out the best in your broccolini with clear and specific instructions.

Sautéing

To sauté broccolini, start by heating a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

You’ll want to cook your broccolini until it’s bright green and tender, which usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

For an aromatic touch, you can add minced garlic in the last 30 seconds to avoid burning it.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 to 7 minutes
  • Ingredients: Olive oil, garlic (optional)
  • Method: Medium-high heat, stirring occasionally

Roasting

When roasting broccolini, preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).

Toss your broccolini with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast until the edges are crispy and the stems are tender, which should take about 20 minutes.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Ingredients: Olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Method: Preheated oven at 425°F (220°C)

Steaming

Steaming is a healthy cooking method that retains nutrients and flavor. Bring about an inch of water to a boil in a pot.

Add your broccolini to a steamer basket and place it over the boiling water. Cover the pot and steam until the broccolini is tender yet still vibrant, which generally takes 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Method: Boiling water, steamer basket, covered pot

Grilling

For a smoky flavor, grilling is the preferred method. Preheat your grill to medium heat, and lightly oil the grates.

Brush your broccolini with olive oil or melted butter and grill for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until you get a nice char and the stems are crisp-tender.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 4 to 6 minutes
  • Ingredients: Olive oil or butter
  • Method: Preheated grill, medium heat, turning once

Flavor Enhancements

A chef's knife slices through broccolini with precision, creating perfect cuts for flavor enhancements

Enhancing the flavor of broccolini is a straightforward affair, focusing on the complementary interplay between seasonings, sauces, and garnishes to accentuate its natural taste. These additions can transform the vegetable from simple to sublime with careful selection and application.

Seasoning Mixes

Salt and Pepper: Start with the basics by sprinkling a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over your broccolini. This simple combination lays the foundation for deeper flavors.

  • Lemon and Garlic: For a zesty kick, mix a teaspoon of lemon zest with minced garlic, and red pepper flakes to taste. This blend adds brightness and a hint of heat that cuts through the natural bitterness of the broccolini.
  • Soy and Sesame: Combine soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds for an Asian-inspired twist. The soy sauce provides a savory depth while the sesame adds a nutty crunch.

Sauce Pairings

Olive Oil Based: Drizzle your broccolini with extra virgin olive oil before or after cooking. The oil’s richness helps to mellow out the vegetable’s sharpness and carries the flavors of added seasonings.

  • Lemon Juice: A splash of fresh lemon juice not only seasons but also tenderizes the broccolini, giving it a refreshing citrus undertone.
  • Balsamic Reduction: If you prefer a sweet and tangy contrast, reduce balsamic vinegar until thick and syrupy and then lightly coat the broccolini for a gourmet touch.

Garnishes

Cheese: Garnishing with cheese is a surefire way to introduce a layer of salty, umami taste. Crumbled feta offers a Mediterranean flair, while finely grated Parmesan cheese adds an Italian richness.

  • Chili: Fresh or dried chili can provide a welcome heat that elevates the broccolini, making it a thrilling side dish for those who favor a bit of spice in their greens.
  • Feta and Lemon: For a final touch, combine crumbled feta with a squeeze of lemon juice. This garnish adds both tangy and creamy notes, rounding out the flavor profile of your dish.

Recipe Ideas

When incorporating broccolini into your meals, consider its versatility in both main and side dishes. Packed with protein, calcium, iron, and potassium, this nutrient-dense vegetable pairs well with a variety of ingredients, enhancing the flavors and health benefits of your dishes.

Main and Side Dishes

Broccolini can be the star of the show in a main dish or play a supporting role as a side dish. Here’s how to leverage its crisp texture and slightly peppery taste:

  • Pasta: Toss blanched broccolini with pasta, olive oil, garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a quick meal. Add shavings of Parmesan for a touch of richness in each serving.
  • Vegan Options: Create a vegan-friendly dish by sautéing broccolini with other vegetables and serving over a bed of quinoa or brown rice, harnessing the robust flavors without any saturated fat concerns.

For side dishes:

  • Simple Sauté: Heat some olive oil in a skillet, add broccolini, and cook until it’s vibrant green and tender. Boost the flavor with garlic or lemon zest.
  • Broccoli Salad: For a cold side dish, mix raw or lightly steamed broccolini with cranberries, nuts, and a light dressing.

Incorporating into Diet

Integrating broccolini into your diet enhances not just the nutritional value, but also the variety of tastes and textures in your meals.

  • Seafood Pairings: Pair broccolini with seafood such as pan-seared salmon for a meal high in omega-3 fatty acids and iron.
  • Complementing Sweetness: Roasted sweet potatoes make an excellent companion to broccolini, balancing its earthy flavor with their natural sweetness.
  • Serving Suggestions: When planning what to serve with broccolini, remember it complements beef, poultry, and even tofu dishes, making it a highly adaptable choice for any meal plan.

Storage and Leftovers

A hand holding a chef's knife trims broccolini on a cutting board, while a container of leftovers sits nearby in a kitchen pantry

Proper storage of broccolini maximizes both its shelf life and quality. Whether you’re dealing with fresh cuts or leftovers, knowing how to store them can drastically reduce waste.

Refrigeration

Fresh Broccolini: You should store unwashed fresh broccolini in a loose plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Expect it to stay fresh for up to a week.

  • Leftovers: After cooking, cool the broccolini quickly and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it will maintain quality for about 48 hours. Ensure it’s dry to prevent bacterial growth.

Freezing

If you need to extend the life of your broccolini, freezing is a viable option.

  1. Blanch: First, blanch the broccolini in boiling water for two minutes to preserve its vibrant color and nutrients.
  2. Cool: Immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry and Bag: Pat the blanched broccolini dry to prevent ice crystals and place it in freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible.

Note: Frozen broccolini is best used in cooked dishes and should be consumed within 6-8 months for optimal flavor.

Revitalizing Meals

When you have broccolini leftovers, don’t just reheat—revitalize them to create delectable dishes.

  • Saute: Briefly sauté in olive oil over medium heat to bring back vibrancy.
  • Incorporate: Mix them into pastas, frittatas, or soups to add nutrition and flavor without starting from scratch.

Serving Suggestions

Properly preparing broccolini is just the start; how you serve it can transform the dish. From portion sizes to presentation tips, we’ll cover the essentials for serving broccolini that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Portion Sizes

  • Individual Servings: You should aim for about 3-4 ounces of broccolini per person, which typically translates to about 5-6 stalks.
  • Family Style: For family-style servings, plan on 1 pound for every 4 guests. This ensures there’s plenty for those who might want seconds.

When considering servings, remember that the texture and crunch of broccolini are best preserved when it is not overcrowded in the pan during cooking, which allows for even caramelization.

Presentation Tips

  • Texture: Aim to present broccolini with a balance between tender and crisp. This combination provides a satisfying crunch without compromising the vegetable’s delicate nature.
  • Caramelization: Highlights of golden brown on your broccolini add not only flavor but visual appeal, signifying proper cooking technique.
  • Lemon Wedges: Serve with lemon wedges on the side; a light squeeze of lemon juice can enhance the flavor and add a vibrant note to the plate.
  • Garnish: A sprinkle of coarse salt or a drizzle of quality olive oil before serving can accentuate the natural flavors of the broccolini.

Health Considerations

A hand holding a knife skillfully trims broccolini on a cutting board, with a focus on precise cuts and attention to detail

When preparing broccolini, it’s important to consider both potential dietary restrictions and the nutritional benefits this vegetable offers. Broccolini is a nutrient-dense food that can fit into many diets, bringing with it a host of vitamins and minerals.

Allergies and Restrictions

Broccolini is naturally gluten-free and vegan, making it suitable for most dietary restrictions. However, like all foods, there’s a chance some individuals might experience allergies. Although rare, be aware of your body’s responses when trying broccolini for the first time.

Benefits of Broccolini in Diet

Incorporating broccolini into your diet can offer various health benefits:

  • Low in Calories: Broccolini is beneficial for weight management due to its low calorie content.
  • Nutrition Facts:
    • Vitamin C: An antioxidant important for skin and immune health.
    • Dietary Fiber: Aids in digestion and can help maintain a healthy gut.
    • Protein: Essential for muscle repair and growth; broccolini can contribute to your daily protein intake.
    • Calcium: Important for bone health and function.
    • Iron: Crucial for oxygen transport in the blood and overall energy levels.
    • Potassium: Helps maintain proper heart function and regulates blood pressure.

Eating broccolini adds a significant amount of vitamins and minerals to your diet, supporting overall health and fulfilling daily nutritional requirements.

Social Engagement

Engaging socially around the art of cooking can enrich the experience of preparing dishes like broccolini. It offers an opportunity to exchange tips, showcase your culinary skills, and enjoy the communal aspects of cooking.

Cooking with Friends

When you cook with friends, remember that kitchen tasks such as preparing broccolini offer a chance for bonding. Share the responsibility of knife skills:

  • Trimming: Pass the broccolini around, and encourage each person to trim off the woody ends, then split the task.
  • Chopping: Take turns making uniform floret cuts, which is crucial for even cooking.

This cooperative approach not only makes the prep work faster but also serves as a live demo, where each of you can share your knowledge on knife skills, ensuring safety and efficiency. It’s a practical session that solidifies friendships over a shared love of food.

Sharing Recipes Online

Your experiences can transcend the confines of your kitchen when you share recipes online. Utilize platforms like Facebook to:

  1. Post photos of your prepared broccolini, injecting pride into your online presence.
  2. List steps clearly, particularly any specific knife techniques used.
  3. Offer tips that you’ve found helpful, such as the best way to achieve vibrant green broccolini: a quick blanch of 2 minutes, followed by an ice bath.

When sharing recipes, be precise and clear. Contributing to online forums or social media groups dedicated to cooking can connect you with a larger community to exchange knowledge and feedback, enhancing your culinary repertoire and social circle.

Advanced Cooking Techniques

A chef expertly slices broccolini with precise knife skills

When preparing broccolini, understanding how to develop flavors through caramelization and control the vegetable’s crispness or tenderness will take your dish to the next level.

Caramelization

Caramelization is a complex flavor-building technique where natural sugars brown and break down, releasing deep, nutty, and sweet flavors. To achieve proper caramelization of your broccolini, spread it in an even layer on a baking sheet without overcrowding. Use a medium-high heat to roast, allowing the high temperature to work its magic. The thickness of the broccolini stalks should be uniform for even cooking and caramelization.

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C) and toss broccolini with a bit of oil and seasoning.
  • Roast for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through, until the edges are crispy and lightly browned.

Achieving Desired Texture

Broccolini is a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed with a range of textures, from crisp to tender. For a crisper texture, you’ll want to minimize cooking time – just blanch the broccolini in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes before shocking in ice water. Alternatively, for a tender texture, extend the roasting or sautéing time, allowing the fibers to soften.

  • For a crisp texture, blanch then sauté: After blanching, quickly sauté in a hot pan with a bit of oil until the tips are golden.
  • For softness, use the roast and steam method: Cover the roasting broccolini with foil for the last few minutes of cooking, trapping the steam and softening the stalks.

Unique Preparation Varieties

A chef expertly slices broccolini with precise knife skills

Incorporating diverse flavors and textures into your broccolini dishes can transform this green vegetable from simple to extraordinary. By embracing international spices and creative pairings, you’ll enhance your culinary repertoire.

International Flavors

Your kitchen becomes a gateway to global cuisine when you incorporate ethnic spices and condiments into your broccolini preparations. Here’s how you can bring in a dash of diversity:

  • Asian Influence: Toss your broccolini with sesame seeds and a drizzle of soy sauce for a simple yet profound Asian twist. This combination infuses the vegetable with a nutty and savory dimension.
  • Mediterranean Touch: Sauté broccolini with slivered almonds and a sprinkle of cumin for a Mediterranean flavor. This pairing not only provides a crunchy texture but also adds a slightly earthy and warm undertone to the dish.

Creative Combinations

Exploring unexpected pairings can lead to delightful culinary discoveries. Consider the following creative ideas to enrich your broccolini recipes:

  • Infused Oils: Cook broccolini in oils infused with garlic or chili to subtly impart these flavors without overwhelming the vegetable’s natural taste.
  • Asparagus Allies: Combine broccolini and asparagus, choosing to steam or grill them with complementary seasonings, such as lemon zest or herb blends, enhancing the overall flavor profile while maintaining a crisp, vibrant texture.

Kitchen Wisdom

A sharp knife slices broccolini with precision on a wooden cutting board

In honing your knife skills, particularly for preparing broccolini, you’ll discover that efficiency and waste reduction are pivotal. With the right techniques, your preparation can be both quick and versatile, ensuring maximum flavor and minimal waste.

Efficient Practices

Preparation: Have all your tools and broccolini ready. A well-honed chef’s knife is essential.
Quick Tips:

  • Grip: Hold the knife by the handle with your thumb and forefinger gripping the blade’s base for control.
  • Stance: Stand squarely in front of your cutting board for stability and comfort.

Cutting Technique:

  • Use a fluid rocking motion—tip to heel—for precise cuts.
  • Keep tips of your fingers curled into a ‘claw’, using your knuckles as a guide for the knife.

Reducing Food Waste

Stalk Usage: Broccolini stalks are as flavorful and nutritious as the florets. Trim just the end and peel the tough outer skin if necessary.

Tips for Stalks:

  • Slice: Cut the stalks diagonally into thin coins for stir-fries or salads.
  • Repurpose: Broccolini stems can be used for stocks or soups, adding depth of flavor.

Effort in Preservation:

  • Blanching: Blanch cut broccolini in hot water, then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Storing: Dry thoroughly and store in airtight containers to prolong freshness.

Culinary Inspirations

A chef's knife slices broccolini with precision on a wooden cutting board

Preparing broccolini with finesse not only enhances its flavor but also elevates your dining experience. Celebrity chefs and culinary schools offer key insights and lessons that guide you in mastering the art of cooking this nutritious vegetable.

Celebrity Chef Insights

Texture Matters: To achieve the perfect sautéed broccolini with a crisp-tender texture, a technique often endorsed by celebrity chefs is the two-step cook. Begin by blanching broccolini in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes until bright green and then shock it in ice water. This step locks in the vibrant green color and partially cooks it while retaining its nutritional integrity. Next, sauté it in a hot pan with olive oil and garlic until the edges are slightly charred, and it gains a deliciously smoky aroma.

Flavor Profiles: A chef’s tip for enhancing taste is to incorporate a dash of salt during the sauté process along with red pepper flakes for a gentle heat. Finish with a spritz of lemon juice or zest right before serving; this not only adds a pop of flavor but also complements the natural taste of the broccolini.

Culinary School Lessons

Nutrition Focus: Your culinary education will stress the importance of broccolini as a nutritional powerhouse. High in vitamin C, A, and K, as well as dietary fiber, incorporating this green into your diet supports overall health. Lessons in culinary schools often emphasize the concept that nutritious cooking doesn’t have to sacrifice taste.

Practical Tips: Culinary schools will teach you that overcooking broccolini can lead to a loss of both nutritional value and flavor. Therefore, you’re advised to cook it just until it’s tender, ensuring it retains maximum taste and nutritional benefits. Keeping your knife skills sharp, like the ones needed for efficient broccolini preparation, is not only a pillar of culinary proficiency but also a foundation for inspiring innovation in your cooking methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mastering knife skills is essential for prepping broccolini, ensuring both that the vegetable cooks evenly and maintains its texture. Here’s how to handle common prep tasks with confidence.

What is the best way to trim broccolini stalks before cooking?

To prepare broccolini, use a sharp knife to trim off the bottom half-inch of the stalks, as this part is usually tougher and takes longer to cook. If the stalks are thick, you can also slice them in half lengthwise.

Is there a preferred technique for cutting broccolini for sautéing?

For sautéing, broccolini should be cut into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Hold the broccolini by the stem and slice the florets off to the desired size, then cut the stems if they are particularly thick.

Should broccolini be prepped differently for roasting versus steaming?

When roasting, leave more of the stem on the florets and slice any thicker stems in half to ensure quick, even cooking. For steaming, cut the broccolini into smaller, uniform pieces so they can cook thoroughly without becoming soggy.

What is the proper way to harvest broccolini from the plant for kitchen use?

Harvest broccolini by cutting the main stem below the crown, about 5 to 6 inches down. Ensure you use a clean, sharp knife or garden clippers to avoid damaging the plant and stalks.

How do you properly clean and prep broccolini leaves?

Rinse broccolini leaves under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a clean towel. Smaller leaves can be left whole, while larger ones may be trimmed from the stem and cut into bite-sized pieces if preferred.

Are there any essential tips for maintaining the texture of broccolini in cooking?

To maintain the texture, avoid overcooking broccolini. If you’re sautéing or steaming, cook until it is tender but still firm and bright green.

For roasting, ensure the oven is preheated properly and roast until the edges are just slightly crispy.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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