Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sweet and Vicious: Salvation Cinnamon Rolls

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Once upon a time in 2011 a food blogger received a review copy of The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers, and the rest is history. She read the book from cover to cover, interviewed the author over the phone, waxed poetic about her love for the book on her blog (on multiple occasions) and was even invited to the cookbook release party in New York City where she got to meet the fabulous and fashionable Libbie Summers, who was just as awesome (yet super down to Earth) as she appeared to be in her rocking debut cookbook.


Fast forward to 2014 and the release of Summers' sophomore book Sweet and Vicious. This highly anticipated followup focuses on baking, using the same fun and creative outlook as its predecessor. Libbie's hilarious stories are still prevalent throughout the book, as are the outstanding photos by Libbie's partner in crime, Chia Chong. In fact, the two of them created the award-winning food blog Salted and Styled. This is a partnership I hope never ends.


First things first... the book itself... the edges of all of the pages... are tinted PINK! HOT PINK! That's pretty vicious for a cookbook. Way outside of the box. This is not your typical baking book. It marches to the beat of its own drummer... and I LOVE it. The pages within intend to inspire readers and bakers to be fearless and creative.


Chapters range from more traditional-sounding subjects like cakes, pies, and cookies to one devoted to canine goods. Yup, there are even treats in here for your pup! Equal love for all!


Libbie has a true talent not only for creating thoughtful and delicious baked goods but also for coming up with hilarious titles for many of them. I was literally laughing out loud as I read through the book. Napoleon Bread refers to "a shorter baguette." Get it? It's short and it's French... like Napoleon. HA! How about Libbie's take on fortune cookies. She calls them Backhanded Compliment Cookies and even suggests a list of backhanded compliments to use in the cookies.

Making layers for my Pull-Apart Stinky Italian Boy Bread

And instead of typical gingerbread men or women, she offers a stencil and recipe to make Retired Gingerbread Working Girls. Oh snap. She went there. Flat-Chested Flat Bread, Pull-Apart Boy Bread (because boys have many layers... like this bread), and Angry Bird Hand Pies (Buffalo chicken pasties) are just a few more examples of her playful attitude toward baking. And the recipes live up to the standard I've come to expect from Libbie. There really is more substance to them than funny titles; I'm just pointing out the hilarity because, well, they're too funny not to!


She also includes lots of recipes in her Secret Weapons chapter for homemade extracts, infused sugars, and more. Sweet and Vicious is the complete package. It offers an arsenal of recipes for "baking with attitude" with lots of glorious photos and tips. I do wish that since it's a baking book it included weight measurements in addition to volume measurements. Many baking books these days tend to include both, as more people (even non-professionals) are starting to bake this way, but it's still not officially the standard (at least not in the US) and I'm happy with these recipes regardless.


My only real concern when perusing this lovely cookbook is deciding which recipe(s) to attempt first. There are too many to consider, but I've done my best to narrow down my selection. I decided to start with a couple recipes, one from the Sweet Breads and Pastries chapter and one from Savory Breads... Salvation Cinnamon Rolls and Pull-Apart Stinky Italian Boy Bread respectively.


The Pull-Apart Boy Bread has 5 variations for filling options. I made the one called Stinky Italian Boy which consists of mashed garlic confit, Italian herbs (I just used Italian parsley), and Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino Romano). I also added some crushed chili flakes for heat. The recipe is pretty rich (the dough itself is much like a biscuit dough--very buttery) and layered with lots of incredible flavors. This particular version reminded me of super pimped out garlic bread. It was really easy to make and I look forward to trying some of the other variations in the future. It's also good to know this is not yeast-based so it's a lot faster to prepare than some of the other breads in the book.


Speaking of yeast, the other recipe I tested DID contain yeast and required a bit more of my time and attention. This is the recipe I've actually decided to share with you today, because it yielded some of the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had the pleasure of stuffing into my face. The filling contains a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon and a hit of cayenne to just give a mellow note of heat.

Before proofing

The frosting (mine was more like a glaze, though it would have firmed up if needed after a few minutes in the fridge) is a caramel cream cheese version that really takes these rolls to another world. I've halved the original frosting recipe here and even then, I think it will be more than you actually need to frost/glaze these rolls.

After proofing

I baked half these rolls the day I made them and have frozen the remaining rolls to bake one of these upcoming weekends. Even though they require a bit of extra TLC (just like anything made with yeast), they are really easy to prepare. Please note, you have to roll the dough out into a pretty large rectangle (2 feet long). Even my giant Boos Block cutting board wasn't big enough, so I actually lined up 2 boards flush side by side to roll it out over (although you could use your kitchen counter or table as well).

Fresh out of the oven!

The dough is rich and buttery with a super-cinnamony filling featuring just a touch of background heat every once in a while. You may not even realize the cayenne is there with every bite, but every once in a while you feel a little tingle. If you want these rolls to have more of a kick, add a dash of cayenne to the frosting as well.


This is definitely a special occasion treat, not only by the effort involved, but the sheer amount of butter per square inch on these babies. Libbie calls for 1 1/2 sticks to spread on the dough, but I used a bit less than that (I cheated and used some of it for greasing my bowl/pan instead of using extra butter for that) and even then thought what remained was more than I needed to generously cover the dough. Just something to note!


As expected, I can wholeheartedly recommend this lovely and edgy cookbook. Both recipes I've tried so far (and I guarantee there will be more soon) have hit the mark on all levels. If you love to bake and you're looking for some new and inventive ways to heat up your kitchen, Sweet and Vicious is the book for you.

Angry Bird Hand Pies

Salvation Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 12 large rolls
(Adapted from Sweet and Vicious)

Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing (I honestly think 1/2 cup would be enough for spreading on the dough instead of the full 3/4 cup in the original recipe)
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water, or more if needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant active dry yeast (I used regular dry active yeast and just bloomed it in the warm milk/water before mixing into the dough)
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

Hellfire Filling:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cayenne

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

To make the dough: Butter the inside of a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk, water, vanilla, 1/2 cup butter, the yeast (if using dry active yeast instead of instant make sure you bloom it for a few minutes in the warm milk/water until it dissolves), eggs, salt, sugar, and flour and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, until a soft elastic dough forms. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch. If the dough is too dry, add warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix the dough for 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in the prepared mixing bowl, turning once to ensure that both sides are buttered, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside (I only baked off 6 of these and froze the other 6 so I used a round 9-inch cake pan instead).

To make the hellfire filling: In a small mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 16-by-24-inch rectangle. Use your hands to spread the remaining 3/4 cup butter (I honestly think 1/2 cup should be enough for this step) over the top of the dough, making sure to butter all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a slightly loose long log (rolling the dough too tightly will make the centers of the rolls pop up with baking). Pinch the seam to seal.

Using a serrated knife, cut the log into twelve equal-width rolls and place them on the prepared baking pan, spacing the rolls so they do not touch. (At this point you can cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Allow about 1 1/2 hours for the rolls to double in size once you remove them from the refrigerator). Cover the pan and place it in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the rolls have doubled in size.

To make the caramel cream cheese frosting: In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and stir in the milk. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cooled caramel mixture and beat until combined. Add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla paste and beat for 1 minute. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use, bring to room temperature and beat until creamy, adding a little confectioners' sugar if needed to make it creamy again.

To bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before topping with the frosting. Serve warm.

*Note* These rolls freeze brilliantly. After you have cut them into twelve equal rolls, lay them flat in a zip-top bag and freeze.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

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I recently divulged details about a fun Spanish tapas party I hosted in honor of my sister's birthday. Today I'd like to share another recipe from the event! Gambas al Ajillo (or garlic shrimp) is perhaps one of the most popular tapas dishes out there. There is a version of this recipe in almost all 5 Spanish/tapas cookbooks I own. You can't really go wrong with shrimp and garlic.


I selected this version over the others because I liked the idea of using the sweet Sherry to create a thickened sauce for the shrimp. The other recipes didn't include this ingredient, but I figured it seemed pretty Spanish and actually softened up the garlic flavor for the shrimp. It was sweeter/softer than most garlic-based dishes. The Golden Sherry reduces and is emulsified with butter to create a beautiful delicately garlicky glaze with a slightly sweet edge.


This preparation for shrimp is so simple that I can see myself whipping this together on a whim since all of these ingredients (minus the shrimp) are ones I now have on hand. It cooks in just minutes and has a lovely dynamic flavor.


Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Serves 4
(Adapted from The Barcelona Cookbook)

20 medium shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined, with tails left on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
1 cup Christian Brothers Golden Sherry (I used Taylor brand instead)
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Lightly rinse the shrimp under cold running water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly season the shrimp with salt and pepper.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and shrimp and sear for about 3 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the sherry to the pan, being careful in case it ignites (if it does, remove the pan from the heat and the flames will subside quickly). Stir in the pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes longer, or until the shrimp is cooked through and pink.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a serving dish and leave the sherry in the pan. Still over high heat, reduce the sherry for 7 to 10 minutes, or until it becomes a glaze.

Add the butter to the pan, swirling it over medium heat until melted. Return the shrimp to the pan, toss with the glaze, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Patatas Bravas (Fierce Potatoes)

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In honor of my amazing sister's birthday last week, I created a fun and festive Spanish tapas meal to celebrate. Tapas are one of my favorite styles of small plate meals (along with dim sum) and can always get on board for enjoying tapas with family or friends whether at a tapas bar or in my home.


Along with a pitcher of fruity sangria (a tapas meal without sangria is just sacrilegious) I created a spread of dishes that included an Empanada with Marinated Pork Roasted Red Peppers, Shrimp with Garlic, Mussels on the Half Shell with Escabeche (served cold and prepped in advance), Patatas Bravas, and Roasted Broccoli (not exactly traditional tapas, but we needed some green veggies!).

Empanada with Marinated Pork and Roasted Red Peppers

Shrimp with Garlic

Mussels on the Half Shell with Escabeche


I also fulfilled my sister's only menu request (luckily she gave me free reign over the rest of the menu) for the birthday cake. A couple years ago, I posted the recipe for the famous Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake, and this is the cake my sister desired on her birthday this year.

Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

It's a personal favorite as well, light and spongey with a slightly tart grapefruit-infused cream cheese frosting and fresh supremes of grapefruit in the filling and to garnish. It's truly timeless and reflects back to the olden days of Hollywood's Golden Age.


I won't be sharing recipes for all of the dishes I made, but instead just a couple (at least for now). Today I'm highlighting my favorite tapas dish of all time: patatas bravas (or fierce potatoes). I'm not sure I've ever attended a tapas meal without ordering this popular tapas staple. Typically it begins with fried potatoes (usually cubed) and is served with a smokey, slightly spicy tomato sauce and a mellow garlic allioli (the Catalan version of aioli).


It's magical... seriously. In this particular case, instead of frying the potatoes, I boiled, halved, and then roasted red-skinned fingerling-style potatoes. They weren't quite as crisp as their fried friends, but they had wonderful flavor from the olive oil and were nicely golden around the edges.


The sauces are truly what take these "patatas" from ordinary to extraordinary. The bravas sauce is a slightly spicy, smokey, garlicky tomato sauce. This recipe actually yields way more sauce than you will need for 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, so either plan to make more potatoes, cut down the sauce (if you desire) or save some of the sauce for another use (or freeze some of it... I did both). I've actually seen this sauce served at a tapas bar with croquettes, so there are really many ways it can be utilized.


The second sauce is a traditional allioli, which much like an aioli (the French/Provencal version) is a garlic mayonnaise. The garlic in this recipe is olive oil-poached and thus results in a soft and mellow garlic flavor than if using fresh garlic. It's super tasty and would be a lovely spread or dipping sauce on its own. Married with the smoky tomato-based bravas sauce, the allioli takes the "patatas" to a delicious dimension where potatoes reign supreme.


Patatas Bravas rule my tapas universe, and I'm so thrilled to finally create them in my own kitchen (after so many delicious experiences in restaurants). Stay tuned for future posts with more fun tapas creations.

Patatas Bravas
Serves 4 (although the sauces yield enough for more servings)
(Adapted from The Barcelona Cookbook)

Allioli:
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or just enough to cover
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bravas Sauce (note this makes a lot more sauce than needed--but the quantity can easily be cut down if desired):
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (I used 3 teaspoons/1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika total instead of the two different kinds)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 35-ounce can plum tomatoes (I used one 28-ounce can of tomatoes plus 7 fluid ounces crushed tomatoes from another can)
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used Champagne vinegar)

Patatas:
1 1/2 lbs waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, red-skin, or fingerling potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

To make the allioli: In a small saucepan combine the garlic cloves and olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the garlic is tender and honey gold (occasionally tilt the pan as needed to keep the garlic submerged--even off the heat the olive oil should be hot enough to keep cooking it). Watch the garlic carefully so that it does not overcook. Life the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to cool. Reserve the garlic oil for another use (1 tablespoon will be used later for the allioli).

In a small food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the garlic cloves, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and pulse to mix. Scrape the allioli into a lidded storage container and chill for up to 3 days. You should have about 1 1/4 cups allioli, and may not use all of it for the patatas bravas, but it can be used as a dipping sauce or spread for other dishes as well.

To make the bravas sauce: In a large saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they soften but have not colored. Add the garlic and cook gently for 6 to 8  minutes, or until the garlic is tender and aromatic. Stir in both paprikas, the cumin, and the cayenne.

Put the tomatoes and their juice in a bowl and, using your hands, crush the tomatoes slightly. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and the vinegar to the saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is heated through and the tomatoes have begun to break down.

Let the tomato sauce cool a little and then, working in batches if needed, puree in a blender until smooth. As one batch is pureed, transfer it to a bowl or a container with a tight-fitting lid. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Use the tomato sauce right away, refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it (like you would with any other tomato sauce). This recipe makes a lot more sauce than you need. You can probably make at least 4 times the amount of potatoes in this recipe for this amount of sauce, cut the recipe down to make less, or you can use the extra sauce for another purpose. It's delicious!

To make the patatas: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by an inch. Season generously with kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until just fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool. The potatoes can be boiled and cooled a day in advance (be sure to refrigerate them if you do this in advance). When cool, cut the potatoes into wedges, cubes, or if using fingerling potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise.

Season the cooled potatoes with salt and pepper and toss them with a generous drizzle of olive oil in a shallow baking pan. Spread out the potatoes in the pan so they are an even layer, and not overlapping. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are nicely browned on one side. Rotate the pan and turn the potatoes over. Roast for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned and crisp on the other side (I actually roasted mine for a total of 30 to 35 minutes).

If you prefer fried potatoes, heat about 10 cups of canola or another vegetable oil in a deep, heavy pot until it registers 375 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.

Fry the potatoes in batches so that you don't crowd the pan. Carefully submerge them in the hot oil and let them cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until crispy and browned. Lift the potatoes from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them drain on the paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining potatoes.

Serve the potatoes with the bravas sauce (either pool some of the sauce on a plate and top with the potatoes, or drizzle the sauce over the potatoes) and with the allioli (either on the side or drizzled over the potatoes).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fish Pie

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Fish pie. It never really sounded appealing to me until recently. It seems like overnight I suddenly had the urge to create this classic dish. It's mostly British in nature, but I've also seen it described as Irish fish pie, and since there's a lot of crossover for food (shepherd's pie vs cottage pie, for example), I figure this is another case where you can call it either British or Irish depending on your mood.


I'd normally call it British, but today I'm going with Irish just for the sake of celebrating St. Patrick's Day, which is just around the corner. It seems like as good an excuse as any!


Recently, I invited a friend of mine over to watch The Fall, a Northern Irish crime drama starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. We are both huge Jamie Dornan fans--he was also on Once Upon a Time, another show I love, and is playing the coveted role of Christian Grey for the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey movie. He's a Northern Irish actor playing a twisted serial killer in this Northern Irish show. I thought making something Irish/British would be apt for our marathon watching of the first season of the show (which is awesome by the way--can't wait till season 2).

Jamie Dornan in BBC's The Fall

The fish pie was a lot better than I expected. The filling is creamy with a nice brightness from the lemon zest. It's smoky from the smoked salmon with a nice seafood flavor without being too fishy. The cod is a nice delicate fish choice especially next to the more assertive smoked salmon.


I would normally think it's crazy to put cheese anywhere near fish, but I've seen this fish pie made with a mashed potato topping either with or without cheese. I decided to take the plunge and add some nice Irish cheddar (see the Irish theme here?). It adds a sharpness and richness to the mashed potatoes. Even in conjunction with the fishy filling, it really works. It simply adds more flavor, and more flavor is never a bad thing.


I'm happy to say that fish pie was more impressive than I expected. It's almost like shepherd's pie meets a pot pie... made with fish. It's comforting, creamy, flavorful, and a pretty balanced meal. No side dish necessary, expect maybe a light, green salad for freshness.


Whether you create this dish for a St. Patrick's Day supper or for an Irish-themed television marathon starring a former Calvin Klein model nicknamed "The Golden Torso" (and yes, that label fits him perfectly--wink wink nudge nudge), this fish pie is whole lot of comfort!

I broiled the fish pie between taking the majority of the photos and serving it--hence why the topping is so much more browned here than in the other photos. Yummy either way!

Fish Pie
Serves 4 to 6

Topping:
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
Kosher salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
5 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (optional)

Filling:
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 pound white fish fillets, such as cod or haddock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease a 2-quart baking dish, place it on the foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.

To make the topping: put the potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are tender and drain. Mash the potatoes with the milk, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Adjust seasoning with more salt, if needed. Cover and keep warm until needed.

To make the filling: Heat the milk and bay leaf to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cod and poach for about 5 to 7 minutes or until it is cooked through and begins to flake (the time is dependent on the thickness of the fish). Carefully strain out the fish and set aside, breaking it up into large bite-size pieces. Discard the bay leaves, but reserve the hot milk.

In a large pot add the butter or olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir to coat all of the onions with it. After another minute, gently begin whisking in the hot milk (from poaching the fish). Whisk until smooth and then simmer for about 5 minutes or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Stir in the peas, parsley, and lemon zest. Fold in the smoked salmon and poached cod gently, then pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Carefully top with the mashed potatoes, sealing in all the edges first (to prevent the filling from bubbling over the edges too much) and then cover the remaining filling with the remaining mashed potatoes. Use a fork to draw lines over the mashed potato topping to give it texture.

Bake the fish pie for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is bubbling (it may bubble out of some of the edges) and the topping starts to brown. At this point, you can broil the fish pie for an addition few minutes to brown it more, if desired. Serve immediately in wide individual bowls.

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