Albacore Ceviche with Pumpkin Seeds and Persimmon

I’ve been on a ceviche kick lately. It’s the perfect appetizer…satisfying, yet light. And it perfectly suits my way of cooking…invent as you go. Every weekend I’ve been picking up some type of fish (sustainable only) and experimenting with different ceviche flavor profiles. Eventually I plan to go around the word with my ceviche experiments, so stay tuned.

As for this inaugural effort, I’m not sure where it hails from, exactly. But I know where it’s going: Smack dab in the middle of my Thanksgiving appetizer table. Serve with light crackers (like Mary’s gluten free or rice crackers), or homemade tortilla chips. If you’re part of the 99% and you’re feeding a crowd, you might want to sub out a less expensive firm, sustainable fish of your choice. I’m thinking tilapia, local rockfish, wild sockeye, or mackerel.

Measurements are exceedingly inexact. Eyeball it, play and taste as you go. Scale up (tee hee) as you wish.

Serves 2

Approx 6 ounces pole caught albacore tuna, (or other firm fish) diced

Juice of 3 or 4 limes to coat thoroughly (possibly more)

1/4 of a dried espelette chile (or a couple pinches of ground espelette, good paprika, Aleppo or any other moderately spicy, fruity ground pepper)

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/2 of a red Fresno chile, seeded and diced very small

1 tablespoon finely diced red onion

1 tablespoon finely diced green onion

1/4 of a Fuyu persimmon, julienned

1/4 cup finely diced avocado

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Mirin to taste (the purpose here is a little sweetness for balancing the tart limes. You could also use mild honey)

Salt to taste

Put the tuna in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice and toss to coat. The fish should be well covered but not swimming in lime. If you need more to thoroughly soak the fish, add it. Add the remaining ingredients by eye and toss. Let sit 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally to mix well. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 6 hours.

Posted in Food and Drink, Latin American, entertaining, food sustainability, healthy, holidays, seafood | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

1st of November Spicy Bean, Kale, Sausage, and Potato Soup

Oftentimes in the Bay Area, the weather doesn’t match up well with the season. Such as it was on November 1, 2011, when I made this soup. It was balmy, high 70s, no wind but I still wanted a winter soup. I couldn’t help myself. So here it is as we head into a weekend that promises to be rainy and chilly. Enjoy!

You can use any pinto, borlotti-like, or cannellini beans you want, and you can also play fast and loose with the sausage, even going so far as to use sausage in casings or lamb merguez or something like that. I happen to have used Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stallard beans and spicy, loose Italian pork sausage from Bi-Rite market. It was good, simple, and comforting, even on a warm day.

1/2 pound dried beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 dried chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into strips or broken into pieces

3/4 pound loose Italian sausage

1 bunch kale, chopped

2 medium potatoes, diced

Other diced vegetables you may have like carrots, green beans, fennel (optional)

2 to 3 cups broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans for several hours or overnight.

In a soup pot, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and chile and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and enough water to cover by one inch and raise heat to high. Lower heat to a slow simmer, partially cover, and cook until tender (45 minutes to 1 hour for freshly dried beans; longer the older they are)

When the beans are nearly done, brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Drain the fat.

When the beans are tender, but still firm, add the drained sausage, kale, potatoes, and any other vegetables you want to use to the bean pot. Add 2 to 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth to desired consistency. Bring to a simmer, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are tender and flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Correct seasonings. This soup will be even better the next day.

Posted in from the market, hearty | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baba Ghanoush with Homemade Harissa

I promised to post this recipe after I posted the harissa recipe a few weeks ago. Apologies for my slowness. In the event you still have some eggplant hanging around in the garden or fridge at this late date, here’s a great way to use it. If you don’t have harissa, this is still fantastic on its on. Can easily be scaled up for a larger crowd.

There are three secrets to great baba ghanoush:

1.     It needs a bit of smoke. Don’t be afraid to roast it directly on the gas stovetop (or on a grill).

2.     Lay off the tahini. Eggplant has a delicate flavor and too much tahini (most recipes call for too much) will overpower it.

3.     See above. I like to roast some of the garlic and leave some raw because I dislike the heat of raw garlic and it overpowers the eggplant.

Makes about 1 cup

1 medium eggplant

3 large garlic cloves (1 peeled, 2 left unpeeled)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini

2 tablespoons parsley

Generous pinch of freshly toasted and ground cumin

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Harissa to stir in before serving

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Using a fork, puncture the eggplant in several places. Put the eggplant directly on your gas flame or grill and char it until it is evenly black all over, turning with tongs.

Transfer it to the oven along with the two whole, unpeeled garlic cloves and roast for 10-15 minutes, until the eggplant and garlic are both soft.

Meanwhile, assemble the other ingredients.

Pound the peeled garlic clove to a paste in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh off the charred skin directly into a food processor bowl fitted with a steel blade. If there are lots of large seeds remove them as you go, but don’t worry about getting them all.  Peel the roasted garlic cloves and add them to the processor with the eggplant. Add the pounded garlic, lemon juice, tahini, parsley, and cumin and pulse until the mixture is smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is all incorporated. Season to taste with salt.

Stir a little homemade or store bought harissa in just before serving (optional)

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Homemade harissa d’espelette—a many splendored condiment

Lately I’ve been into making harissas and sambals and other fiery chile-based condiments. I think the attraction is that they provide a quick and easy way for a busy cook to make rather ordinary soups, seasonal salads, and baked chicken or fish a lot more interesting. Less than an hour in the kitchen on a weekend, with a few simple ingredients and a food processor, yields a jar full of fun recipe ideas to deploy on busier days.

For the harissa I more or less riffed off of this recipe in Saveur, but I used some very special chiles, removed some ingredients, and changed the proportions. The chiles were dried piment d’espelette from Annabelle Lenderink’s La Tercera Farm. I’d been meaning to do something special with them because they have such a bright, fruity, mildly spicy flavor and are so elegant. Plus, hardly anyone grows them outside of Basque country, as far as I know, but you can use any good dried chiles you like.

Makes about 1/2 cup

12 medium sized, medium spicy, fruity dried red chiles, stemmed, seeded and soaked in hot water until soft

1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted in adry skillet and ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle

1⁄4 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet and ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle

3 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle

Approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Lemon juice to taste

Put the soaked chiles, toasted and ground spices, and pounded garlic in a food processor and pulse until fairly smooth, and blended, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a smooth paste. Add a little salt and lemon juice and pulse to blend. Taste for balance, adding more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil, as needed. Will keep in small jars in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks, possibly longer.

So once you have the paste, what do you do with it?

1. Stir it into a basic lemon-shallot vinaigrette and use it on potato salad studded with bacon and green onions (above) or any other seasonal vegetable salad (corn, zucchini, green bean, roasted pepper, toasted pumpkinseed salad pictured below)—I plan to post these recipes soon.

2. Whisk together with white wine, fresh chopped herbs, and olive oil and use to marinate chicken before baking.

3. Stir into hummus or baba ghanoush (I’ll post this recipe soon)

4. Stir into a brothy chicken soup with potatoes or rice

5. Use it as a sandwich spread

6. Stir it into scrambled eggs

What are your ideas? Leave a comment and share them.

Posted in DIY, Food and Drink, entertaining, from the market, healthy, pantry staples | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Jammin’ Summer: Wild Blackberries and Feral Plums

There are two summer themes this year—gathering free fruit to make jam, and seeing how little sugar we can get away with using and still call it jam. Ok, sometimes its sauce. But I’m ok with that.

I’ve been obsessed with making low sugar jam ever since I served as a judge in the Good Food Awards last year. Turns out that spending the day tasting dozens of jams can leave a person with a terrible stomachache that lasts a couple days. After the first five jams, they all tasted the same…sweeeeet. So this year my goal is to preserve the flavor of the fruit, not the sugar.

The first bout of jamming took place on 4 of July weekend. We’d been visiting friends who live in a development alongside a trail that leads to the nearby delta and Port of Sacramento. Before the trail was built, backyards had extended out farther, so the area the trail runs through is lined with feral fruit trees of all sorts. Plum season!

Yellow plums, green plums, red plums. All kinds of plums were ripe and plopping off the trees all around us. Five of us filled bags and bags of them and, since nobody else wanted them, we took them home to make jam. Mixed plum jam. We used about 1 1/2 cups sugar for every four cups of cut fruit. Considering most recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit, that’s low. The jam was tart. Almost too tart. Since low sugar jam is more perishable, we processed it for 15 minutes in the jars.

Bout two of jamming crossed state lines. We timed our camping trip up north to coincide with Oregon blackberry season. After camping in the woods for two days, and picking blackberries for two hours, we were ready for a little indoor time. A rented apartment in Ashland, a few showers and nice dinners out, a Shakespeare play, and an afternoon reading and making blackberry jam…and before we knew it we were headed home with not quite enough jars of Oregon summer.

This time, we upped the sugar ratio to account for the blackberries being somewhat under ripe.  We used two cups sugar for every four cups of blackberries. And it’s almost too sweet.

What’s next? Figs? Show me the tree!

Posted in DIY, Food and Drink, Travel, foraging, fruit, pantry staples, preserving | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fried Green Tomatoes & Burrata for Impatient Gardeners

Chilly Bay Area summers make waiting for that first green tomato to ripen like waiting for Congress to negotiate a budget.

Thankfully green tomatoes have a lot more going for them than our typical legislators. They’re way more fun; they have a movie AND a book named after them; they’re tasty; and, instead of making you want to cry, they give you a great excuse to fry. If that’s not enough, you can eat them with the godfather of all milky goodness, burrata!

So get on it. Go out there and pick those suckers and make some fried green tomatoes. I served these as part of a special birthday meal that included tuna, olive, and avocado canapés, (pictured below), seared sea scallops with spicy brown butter over grits, and sautéed green beans with shallots and toasted walnuts, and for dessert: panna cotta with Ellen’s canned, honeyed cherries.

I accidentally bought cream instead of buttermilk so we decided to make butter (and buttermilk) a la minute in a jar, just like in elementary school.

This fancy stone ground cornmeal from a small mill in the south definitely made for a superior crunchy texture and super corny flavor, but regular cornmeal is just fine.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Burrata and Basil

Serves Two

1 large, firm, green tomato, sliced

1/2 cup of buttermilk

3/4 cup cornmeal


Freshly ground pepper

High heat vegetable oil or peanut oil for frying


Fresh basil, sliced into a chiffonade

Arugula (optional)

Your best olive oil for drizzling

Put the buttermilk and cornmeal in separate shallow bowls. Season the cornmeal generously with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy, cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil so it comes about 1/2 inch up the sides of the skillet.

While waiting for pan and oil to heat, dunk the tomato slices first in the buttermilk and then in the seasoned cornmeal. Test the pan for heat by dropping in a sprinkle of cornmeal. It should sizzle in a lively fashion, but not burn. The surface of the oil should look shimmery but shouldn’t smoke. When the pan is ready, put in the tomato slices two or three at a time, depending on their size and the size of your pan. You don’t want to crowd them or they won’t fry properly.

Fry the tomato slices until golden brown, then flip carefully and fry the other side. Meanwhile, ready your plates. Slice the burrata, Lay out a little arugula (if using) and drizzle it with good olive oil. Top this with the tomatoes, topping each tomato with a slice of burrata and a sprinkle of basil. Season the burrata with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle the top with good olive oil. Serve immediately.

Posted in entertaining, gardening, hearty | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plum Gorgeous & Cherries Galore

If you’re a person who reads cookbooks as much for stories as recipes, and aspires to an elegantly rural, abundant lifestyle, then Plum Gorgeous by Romney (Nani) Steele will speak to you. If you swoon over gorgeous photos of seasonal fruits set in dreamy tableaux, Plum Gorgeous, with photos by Sara Remington, will send you off into a never-never land of wistful longing.

Steele’s first book, My Nepenthe, a memoir about growing up in the legendary Big Sur restaurant, was a personal account of the author’s relationships with her family and the history of a legendary place. Plum Gorgeous is loosely about Steele’s time living in a mountaintop orchard, but is more meditation than memoir, presenting snippets of observations and memories amidst fragments of poetry and quotations by writers as diverse as Rilke, Mas Masumoto, and Chekov—all interspersed with practical information about different fruit varieties and how to cook with them.

The recipes are from the off-the-cuff, cook-with-what’s-on-hand school of cooking—the type of cooking you imagine happens on a farm or in an orchard, far from the nearest grocery store. The type of cooking that often happens in my own kitchen. I like that I can take an idea from this book and run with it, using what I have on hand, adding my own twist of inspiration, adapting at will.

I was looking for a gluten free seasonal dessert that I could whip up quickly on a weeknight. I chose the cherry clafoutis in Plum Gorgeous. I’m no expert on gluten free baking, so I theorized that a dessert with such a small amount of flour would be a good candidate for a straight up gluten free flour substitution. I subbed rice flour for wheat flour, which worked just fine. I didn’t have any of the called for crème fraîche, so I used sour cream instead. I didn’t measure anything, just eyeballed it all in the midst of preparing supper. I used a hand blender instead of a blender-blender to mix the batter and then I skipped the step where I was supposed to strain it.

Out of sheer laziness and in a rush, I put the raw almonds on top about halfway through cooking instead of toasting them separately. The indignities I inflicted on this recipe should have come back to bite me, but they didn’t. The crepe-like clafoutis batter rose up like a Dutch Baby, encasing the sugared and liquored up cherries in a puffy embrace. The top browned, as it should; the almonds became crisp. I scooped it from the skillet steaming, eggy, and fragrant. It was a hit. I should always be so lucky with my haphazard baking habits.

my cherry clafoutis

cherry clafoutis from the book

The book is filled with similar seasonal fruit recipes that are forgiving, flexible, and uncomplicated. Come for the memoir and stay for recipes like Plum Soup with Basil Ice Cream; Heirloom Tomatoes and Peaches with Burrata; and Kumquats and Toasted Couscous with Halloumi. Or come for the recipes and be drawn into the memoir and photos.

As for the photos, Steele and Remington worked in collaboration on them, and it shows. Steele is a gifted food stylist (she styled the food in DIY Delicious, which the super talented Remington also shot) and together, these two women know how to make a book a work of art.

Posted in Books, Food and Drink, dessert, entertaining, from the market, fruit | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Easy, Sustainable Seafood Stew (with variations)

Here’s a method for making a quick seafood stew that’s both sustainable and perfect for casual summer dining. No need to turn the oven on or fuss for hours in the kitchen.

Sustainable seafood is a complex topic. Even if you conscientiously refer to the guidelines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, you’ll likely still encounter grey areas and gaps in information.

Just a few of the common problems:

1. Species are often misnamed at fish counters; for example: rockfish is commonly referred to as red snapper, which is endangered. And while some Northern California rockfish are plentiful, others are not.

2. Sustainability often depends on where and how a fish was caught (information that isn’t usually available).

3. Farmed seafood can be farmed poorly or environmentally responsibly. Without visiting the operation, you’ll never know.

4. Not all types of seafood make it on to those little wallet cards, so you’ll often find yourself left in the dark.

Thankfully, there are a few fairly sure bets in the world of sustainable seafood. And they happen to make great seafood stew!

US Farmed clams, oysters, and mussels:

Mollusk aquaculture has low input (feed) requirements, if any, and mollusks are low on the food chain, (and consequently low in environmental toxins), fast reproducing, and plentiful

California squid:

Our local squid comes from a sustainable fishery and is also quick to reproduce and low in toxins. Make sure you buy California squid and clean it yourself. If you buy cleaned squid, it’s entirely possible that it was caught here, shipped to China, processed, and shipped back. Not so great from a carbon footprint point of view. Plus the fresh (never frozen stuff) just tastes better. Read this post for instructions on how to clean them.

DIY Delicious includes one recipe for sustainable seafood stew, but I like to use the basic technique and vary my stew according to my mood, the season, or what’s in the market. We made the stew pictured above in a cooking class I taught at River Myst Haven in Healdsburg, CA. It was a hit!

Here’s the basic recipe with variation suggestions:

Sustainable Seafood Stew

You can make this stew as basic or as luxurious as you like. The basic broth is easy, quick, and invaluable in the kitchen. You can vary the alcohol, adding anything from wine, to beer, to Pernod. For a Southeastern US flair, add Old Bay Seasoning. For a classic Mediterranean flavor, add saffron. If tomatoes are in season, add them. If not, leave them out. You can vary the aromatics and herbs however you like. You can even add chiles, lemongrass, and coconut milk and go in an entirely different direction. Experiment away. For serving this version, I like to float baguette croutons spread with a homemade lemony, garlic aioli in each individual bowl.

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for croutons

1/2 medium onion, (or 3 leeks), roughly chopped

1 celery rib, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

1/2 small fennel bulb, chopped

2 garlic cloves, left unpeeled and smashed with the side of the knife blade


1 pound fish heads and bones (from a sustainable, local fish—I use wild salmon in season)

1/2 cup dry white wine (or Pernod)

1/2 cup fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes (optional in season)

3 or 4 sprigs fresh parsley (and/or other fresh herbs)

6 black peppercorns

Pinch fennel or coriander seeds

A pinch of saffron (optional)

2 pounds mussels, washed and debearded

2 pounds clams, washed

1 pound squid, cleaned (see Note)

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium soup pot over medium heat, warm the 1/4 cup oil. Add the onion, (or leeks) celery, carrot, fennel, garlic, chiles (if using), tomatoes (if using), saffron (if using), and a few pinches of salt. Let the vegetables cook gently until soft and aromatic, about 10 minutes.

Add the fish heads and bones, 5 cups water, the wine, (or other alcohol), parsley, (or other herbs) peppercorns, and fennel (or coriander) seeds and bring to a boil. (this is when you would add lemongrass, if you were using it) Skim any scum from the top and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until fragrant and the broth begins to color, about 20 minutes.

Remove the broth from the heat and strain it. Return the broth to the pot, taste, and adjust the salt, pepper, and acid by adding a little more white wine (this is when you would add the coconut milk if you were using it) if desired.

Add the clams and mussels, cover, and simmer until they just open, 3 minutes or so. Add the squid and turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, for 30 seconds. Discard any unopened clams or mussels and ladle the stew into 4 warmed, shallow bowls.

Posted in DIY, food sustainability, from the market, healthy, seafood | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kitchen Hacker: Cowboy Stovetop Buttermilk Biscuits & Sorghum Syrup

I enjoy a kitchen challenge. My favorite variety of challenge is when I don’t have the necessary equipment for what I want to accomplish and I have to make do with what’s on hand. I think problem solving in the kitchen makes us smarter cooks.

Recently a special someone and I had a hankering for biscuits, but the oven was broken. The situation was made all the more urgent because there was a big ‘ole jar of hand-made, slow-cooked sorghum syrup that had traveled all the way from Sneedville TN to San Francisco, CA and I badly needed to convey some of it into my mouth on a hot, crispy biscuit. It was suggested by a smarter cook than I that we try the stovetop.

We figured if we could make biscuits on a home stovetop in a cast-iron pan then biscuits in the campsite would be in our future. All the more reason to make a go of it.

But first: the sorghum syrup. If you’ve never tried it, it’s kind of like molasses, only more edible. It’s overall milder, and shares some of the characteristics of molasses. It has a similar flavor—pungent, minerally, and sweet, but less bitter and with a (for lack of a better word) bright aftertaste that’s missing from molasses. It’s gorgeous, reddish brown and thick. It’s made the same way as molasses, but from sorghum instead of sugar cane. If you’re interested in the process, here’s a video by Whole Foods Market about a small producer called Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill.

Oh, yeah, there was no rolling pin or biscuit cutter either. But a Straus milk bottle and champagne glass worked just fine.

Bonus points if you’ve recently made the Cultured Butter (page 121) from DIY Delicious and you have some buttermilk to use for your biscuits. So much better!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes about a dozen small biscuits

1 3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together. Add the butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender or your hands (if you can work fast), distributing it evenly and stopping when the chunks of butter are the size of peas.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix with a spoon, just barely. You want to stop messing with the dough well before you think you should because this is the secret to flakiness. The dough will still be crumbly and wet and not at all a neat mass. Get over it and dump it on a clean, floured surface. Working quickly, push and pat it together with your hands. It will still be awfully messy. That’s ok. Messy dough=better biscuits.

Roll it to a one-inch thickness. Cut into small circles.

Put a tiny knob of butter in the skillet and swish it around. Put in the biscuits. Feeling free to crowd them. Slap a lid on ‘em. (it doesn’t have to fit tight).

Cook them until you can see they are cooked halfway up the sides. Flip them and cover them back up.  Take the lid off after a few minutes to let them crisp up.

Remove biscuits from skillet, and turn that mother off before it explodes, and then eat.

Posted in DIY, Food and Drink, breads and pizzas, breakfast | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hands-On DIY Delicious Cooking Class in Healdsburg

If you’re looking for something fun to do in a beautiful setting on Memorial Day weekend, you should consider joining me for a hands-on DIY cooking class at River Myst Haven. It’s a gorgeous place that’s nestled among the hills west of Healdsburg on Westside Road.

From scratch, we’ll create building blocks of the DIY kitchen and then use them in a seasonal menu that we’ll all enjoy together.

Participants will learn how to make mustard, which we’ll use to create a glaze for pork canapés and also the vinaigrette for a seasonal salad. We’ll enjoy homemade Meyer lemon parsley aioli on a sustainable seafood stew. We’ll learn how to make yogurt and talk about all the different ways to use it, as we create a yogurt cake with seasonal fruit. Finally, we’ll have a cultured butter making demo and tasting. $100. Sign up here.


Mustard Glazed Pork Canapés

Seasonal Vegetable Salad of

Artichokes, Asparagus, Snap Peas and Fava Beans

with Homemade Mustard Vinaigrette, Fresh Herbs,

and Ricotta—(subject to change based on availability)

Sustainable Seafood Stew with Meyer Lemon Parsley Aioli

Yogurt and Seasonal Stone Fruit Cake with Streusel Topping

Butter Making Demo and Tasting

Posted in DIY, book events, classes, community, food sustainability, from the market | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
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