Goat Cheese and Beet Plin with Tarragon


My husband and I recently visited my family in Philadelphia and finally had the opportunity to visit one of Chef Marc Vetri's restaurants, Osteria.  I have followed Vetri for a few years and own two of his cookbooks: Rustic Italian Food and Il Viaggio Di Vetri.  Everything always looks amazing in his cookbooks and on his menus.  I'm a pasta freak, especially fresh pasta, and I am actually embarrassed to admit how long it took us to finally visit one of his restaurants.  We were not disappointed.  From the bread to the salads to the pasta... the pastaaaaaa.  Glorious.  The most amazing part was that the best thing we ate at that meal was something we didn't order--it was something that was comped to us (long story as to why.)  It was the beet and goat cheese plin with tarragon.  

Paper-thin pasta sheets, creamy beet filling, sweet butter sauce, salty cheese all topped with tarragon--a spice I never would have thought of--all together, heaven.  "Plin" meaning a "pinch" are the teeniest agnolotti/ravioli you can imagine.  Each little plin became a battle for my husband and I to fight over.  As I always do after experiencing an incredible meal at a restaurant, I attempted to recreate the dish at home. 

After a quick Google of the dish, I actually found the recipe on Oprah.com with this accompanying photo.  This recipe also appears in Rustic Italian Food (which is a good reminder for all of us to not forget about the cookbooks on our shelves for inspiration.)

Photo: Kelly Campbell, Oprah.com

Photo: Kelly Campbell, Oprah.com

This presentation above looks just like it did in the restaurant.  My attempt at the recipe, as pictured at the top of this post, doesn't look nearly as beautiful, but the taste was spot on.  I also did not manage to get my pasta sheets quite as thin, nevertheless, the shocking hot pink beet filling shined through, and the taste... the taste.  Perfection.

Goat Cheese and Beet Plin with Tarragon

Serves 8 
from Oprah.com


  • 1 pound pasta dough (see separate recipe: Handmade Pasta)
  • 1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves, coarsely chopped, plus some whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Freshly ground pepper (optional)

For the beet filling:

  • 1 large red beet (6 to 8 ounces), scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup fresh white goat cheese
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten (2 1/2 Tbsp.)
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beet in heavy-duty aluminum foil, place in a shallow pan, and roast until fork-tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to handle. Peel the beet, cut it into small chunks, and puree along with the goat cheese, egg, and Parmesan in a food processor or with a handheld immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spoon the filling into a pastry bag or ziplock plastic bag with one corner cut to make a small piping hole. 

Lay a pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface, one long side parallel to the edge of the counter. Trim the short sides so the edges are straight. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, preferably with a fluted pasta cutting wheel, to make 2 long sheets. Lightly mist the dough with water. 

Pipe teaspoon-size rounds of filling along the bottom half of each pasta sheet, right along the bottom edge, leaving 3/4 inch between the rounds. Pick up the dough beneath the filling on the long side of the pasta sheet and fold the pasta and the filling over, working your way down the pasta sheet so the entire bottom edge of the pasta and the filling is folded over once (see the photos on page 85). Repeat, folding the entire bottom edge of the pasta and the filling over once more. You should be left with one long strip of naked pasta above the folded part. Using both hands, gently pinch your fingertips and thumb together on the pasta between each round of filling to create a pillow of filling that stands a bit more upright. Use the pasta wheel or a knife to trim the entire length of excess pasta to within 1/2 inch of the pillows. Cut between each pillow to create individual pastas, being careful to leave an even, sealed edge on each side. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and filling. Toss with a little flour and set aside. Makes about 48. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the plin, quickly return to a boil, and cook until tender yet firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water. 

Just before the pasta is done, ladle 1 cup pasta water into a large sauté pan. Add the chopped tarragon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking until melted before adding the next piece. Continue until the butter is incorporated and the sauce is creamy. Slide the drained plin into the warm sauce. Toss gently until the sauce is creamy, adding more pasta water as needed. Divide among warm pasta bowls and garnish with Parmesan and tarragon. Add a few grindings of black pepper if you like. 

From Rustic Italian Food (Ten Speed Press) by Marc Vetri.


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Chicken Celery Scallion and Cilantro Dumplings


Yummmmm... dumplings.  So comforting, so many flavors and textures.  Most Asian restaurants offer some sort of dumplings, some better than others, but I always feel that New York City has the best offerings.  From Dumpling Man in the East Village to Dim Sum A-Go Go in Chinatown, my mouth just dances from the salty, meaty, crispy goodness.  After reading issues of Lucky Peach and past issues of Bon Appetit, I finally got the bug to make my own.  The process was actually much easier than I thought (once I figured out how to get my dumping 'crimps' just right,) it just took some time and patience.  The essential way to get the crimp right is to make sure you don't use too much filling.  In my case, I had to use pre-made wonton wrappers (trimmed to a circle shape with a biscuit cutter,) I used 1 tsp of filling for each.

I started with the filling--made it up mostly with what I had on hand.  I'd encourage you to experiment.  The key is that your ingredients are all really small and about the same size--any chunks of, say, celery, may rip open your wrapper.


If your grocery store has round wrappers, awesome, use those.  Mine didn't, so I bought the wonton wrappers (egg roll wrappers are too big,) and cut them in a circle shape using a biscuit cutter.  If you don't have one, find a glass that has the right size opening and using a knife, cut the circle shape out.  Once the filling is in the middle, fold the wrapper over and seal with a little water (I basically just dipped my finger in some water to do this--don't use too much, or your dough will get soggy.)  Next, the crimping--the art of the dumpling making.  I put my right hand index finger on the right side of the dumping and my thumb on the left side and slowly twisted my index finger down my thumb.  Since my dumplings were small, I managed 3 crimps to properly seal and make pretty.  Be patient here.  I'd say of the few dozen dumplings I made, I had to throw away about 5-6 (Mostly because I put too much filling in, used too much water, or filling ripped through.)


To cook, I placed about a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and seared one side.  I flipped them over, tossed a few tablespoons of water in the pan, quickly covered with a lid, and allowed the dumplings to steam and sear the other side.  Use your eyes here--once both sides are brown, they're done.  Less than 10 minutes for both sides.  To serve, I put a small bowl of dipping sauce out (1/2 soy sauce, 1/2 rice wine vinegar, sugar to taste) plus Sriracha for spice.  Delish.  Overall, a great home victory.  I think they'd make an awesome Super Bowl appetizer.  Were they better than the frozen variety, like Trader Joe's?  Yes.  Were they better than Dumpling Man, no.  But let's face it... folks that make dumplings for a living will certainly be better at it than me (I'm not Bobby Flay...)


Chicken Celery Scallion and Cilantro Dumplings

Makes 40 or so (depending on size of wrappers used)


1/2 pound chicken sausage

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 inch peeled ginger, minced or grated on a Microplane

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro

1 stalk celery, diced small

1 package of dumpling wrappers (or wonton wrappers cut to circles)

Dipping sauce: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar


1.  Combine top 8 ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Follow dumpling making steps as outlined above and place on parchment--be careful that dumplings don't touch each other (they'll stick!)

3.  If not cooking right away, freeze dumplings on tray in freezer.  Once frozen, place in a tupperware and store until ready to cook.  You can cook them frozen the same way I outline in step #4, just be sure to give the dumplings a few more minutes to steam.

4.  To cook, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan.  Add dumplings, making sure dumplings don't touch each other (my pan fit about 15 comfortably.)  Sear until browned.  Flip dumplings over, add about 2 tbsp. of water to the pan, cover with a tight fitted lid, and steam/sear for a few minutes (until browned and steamed through--the steaming cooks the filling.)

5.  Serve with dipping sauce.  I like 1/2 soy sauce, 1/2 rice wine vinegar, a dash of sugar, and some hot sauce.  You could grate some ginger in the sauce too.

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Whole Wheat Bread


Somehow I found myself with two 5-pound bags of whole wheat flour and not a speck of white flour in sight.  I went on the hunt for wheat bread recipes and sadly discovered most bread recipes contain a mixture of whole wheat and white flour.  Finally I found this super easy and quick recipe with only whole wheat flour and was delighted with the results.  After baked and thoroughly cooled uncovered at room temperature, the bread stayed moist stored in a large Ziploc bag on the counter (NOT in the fridge) and did not mold after a 4+ days (a rarity for homemade breads.) While you might be tempted to laugh at the exact baking time listed in the directions--don't.  The bread baked perfectly.

Turns out that 100% wheat flour recipes can be more challenging as the bread can turn out very dense and almost bitter.  By adding lovely sweetness from molasses and honey, this bread did not turn out bitter at all--rather it tastes homey and healthy.  The sweet-level is just enough, but it's extra glorious when topped with honey butter or butter with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.  I also used this bread to make egg-in-a-hole, and it was delicious.


100% Whole Wheat Bread

Very slightly adapted from CopyKat Recipes

Makes 2 loaves.


  • 2 3/4 Cups of hot water
  • 1/3 Cup of Oil, Olive is fine
  • 1/3 Cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons Molasses
  • 1 tablespoons Salt, Sea Salt is good
  • 7 1/2 cups of 100% Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 packets of Dry Active Yeast


1. Place the first five ingredients in a standing mixer with a dough hook and mix.

2. Add: 2 Cups 100% Whole Wheat Flour and 2 packets of Dry Active Yeast. Mix.

If your not sure about your yeast proof it in a little warm water with a sprinkle of sugar first.

3. Continue to slowly add flour 1/2 Cup at a time while mixing until the dough quits sticking to the sides of the bowl. It should be tacky to the touch. The trick is to have enough consistency to stand up with the least amount of flour so the bread will be fluffy. In any case do not exceed 7 1/2 total cups of wheat flour. Don't over mix or the bread will be tough.

4. When your dough is finished, Cover the bowl and let it rise for about 30-45 minutes. The dough will be larger but it doesn't need to double when using a heavy mixer.

5. Spray two bread pans with cooking spray.

6. Drop the dough on a floured surface so you can work the dough and shape it. Roll it in the flour and shape it in your hands to make a nice ball getting enough flour on it so it isn't sticky. Divide the ball in half and do it again. Shape the loaves by turning the dough under it's self over and over. When the dough is shaped right the sides and ends will be sealed and all you will see is a nice oblong shaped loaf with smooth sides and top. Drop the loaves in your bread pans and let them rise until almost doubled, about 2 hours.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 36 minutes. If you forgot to preheat 41 minutes. (gas oven)

7. When done turn the bread out of the pan to a rack to cool. You can eat it right away (a great time for real butter) don't wrap it until completely cooled. (Condensation will make it soggy) Put in tinfoil to store on the counter. If you put it in the refrigerator it will turn into a brick. Enjoy.

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When in the guts of Summer, when temperature highs are in the 90s (or 100s) and humidity is giving you a new hair-do, the real high points for me are AN OUTDOOR GRILL and OUTDOOR FARMERS MARKETS.  This week browsing the New York City Stuyvesant Farmers Market with my friend Sarah, the real stars were pit fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums,) tomatoes, and zucchini.  Nick and I stocked up on all of the above.  Inspired by the gorgeous yellow and green zucchini, I set out to make a vegetarian main course using this versatile vegetable.  Using what I had on hand (tortillas,) I decided to go for quesadillas.  For added protein and fiber, I added lentils.  The end result was so delicious.  You should see this recipe less as a "recipe" and more as a template.  You could easily substitute grilled eggplant or red/green peppers for the zucchini and your favorite cheese will work as long as it melts well.    An important tip: be SURE to cook your veggies first. If you don't, they'll put out too much liquid and give you a tortilla mop--and not a crisp Summery bite.

Grilled Zucchini + Lentil Quesadillas

Serves 6


4 zucchini, green or yellow or both

8 medium-size flour tortillas

1 medium red onion

½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced as thinly as possible

1 cup cooked and cooled lentils

1 jalapeno pepper (optional)

salt + pepper

cooking spray


  1. Slice the zucchini in half horizontally.  Then slice the halves vertically as thin as you can (approx. ¼ inch thick.)  Spray both sides of the zucchini with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice the red onion in half, root to top.  Slice the root and top ends off and discard.  Peel the tough outer skin and discard.  Slice the red onion into 8 wedges, root to top ends.  Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice jalapeno as thinly as possible and set aside (you will not be grilling the jalapeno.)
  2. Grill the zucchini and red onion on both sides, flipping once.  You can do this in an indoor cast-iron grill pan or on an outdoor grill.  Carefully watch your veggies so that they don’t slip through the grates!  If you like, you can cook them on an outdoor veggie pan.  Allow to cool.
  3. Place one tortilla on a cutting board or wide plate.  Arrange cooked zucchini slices to cover the tortilla in one layer.  Scatter a few cooked red onions on top.  Cover with a single layer of mozzarella cheese.  Spoon ¼ cooked lentils on top of the cheese and scatter a few fresh jalapeno slices.  Finally, top with second tortilla.  Continue with all remaining ingredients as explained until all ingredients are used up.  You will now have 4 quesadillas.
  4. Place quesadillas on a hot grill and CAREFULLY flip once.  (I like to place the one-side cooked quesadilla on a plate and cover with another plate.  Flip the plates over, with the quesadilla still inside.  You can then slowly slide the uncooked side of the quesadilla onto the hot grill.)  You’re looking for medium-dark brown grill marks and oozy cheese.  Let rest on a cutting board for a minute or two and then slice into wedges.  Serve with extra hot sauce or fresh chopped herbs.
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I've never pretended to be a baker.  For one reason, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  Second reason is normally baking recipes serve an army: dozens of cookies, three layer cake, etc.  And with 2 people in my household, that's too much for us.  Making bread, however, is different.  You can easily freeze extra loaves and/or slices.  With recent media featuring recipes from San Francisco's Tartine and New York's Jim Lahey, I couldn't help but be inspired, and I felt that maybe, just maybe, I could try my hand at being a non-sweet, more savory baker.

This particular recipe comes from Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP, courtesy of Tartine baker and co-owner Chad Roberston.  I followed the instructions exactly for the poolish pre-ferment (packaged yeast) version--including weighing all measurements.  I did not have linen-lined baskets for the last rise, so I simply lined a few wide, short ceramic bowls with clean kitchen towels--worked just fine.  This bread was so amazingly good.  The crust was crisp and dark and the inside was perfectly moist and chewy.  No joking here... this bread tasted like it easily walked out of Balthazar or any other first class bakery in the city.  It felt refreshing knowing that something so healthy and void of preservatives could be so soul-warming and gratifying.  The full process started Friday night and ended Sunday afternoon, so I encourage you to have a weekend at home to take this on.  I had 3 loaves: 1 for me, and 2 meant for giveaway.  Yeah right.  One loaf was eaten in about 18 hours, and the other two froze beautifully and were eaten over the next 2 weeks.

Tartine's Seeded Whole Grain Bread

from GOOP Newsletter

Yield: 2-3 loaves

Chad’s Note: This is a basic light whole grain dough made using a poolish style pre-ferment and a long rise. The seed mixture adds a certain flavor profile I like, but the plain whole grain dough, without the seeds added, makes a good basic light whole wheat bread. At Tartine, we use natural leaven to make this bread, and I’ve provided that option as well. You’ll find more detailed instructions on making and maintaining your own natural leaven in our new book, Tartine Bread.

Poolish Pre-ferment:

The overnight poolish pre-ferment is prepared a day ahead of the dough as the flavorful leaven. After the dough is mixed, it is fermented slowly overnight in the fridge to develop even more flavor.

  • 200 grams all-purpose flour: 100 grams white / 100 grams whole wheat (both all-purpose)
  • 200 grams water (70 deg ℉)
  • 1 gram active dry yeast

Prepare this pre-ferment the day before you will mix your dough. To make the poolish in a bowl, mix the flour, water, and yeast. Let stand at cool room temperature overnight (10-12 hours). If you are not ready to mix your dough after the 10-12 hours at room temperature, put the poolish in the fridge and use within 8 hours.

Natural Leaven:

If you’d like to make this dough with a natural leaven instead of a poolish pre-ferment, start by mixing together 1 cup of flour (half white, half whole wheat) in a small bowl with enough warm water to make a loose batter. Cover with cheesecloth and let sit at moderately warm room temperature (70-75 degrees ℉) for about 3 days. Uncover, and discard half of the mixture. Add another measure of your flour blend with additional water to refresh. Cover again and let sit for about 2 days. Repeat this process again—feeding once per day until the starter is rising and falling in a predictable manner. Once the starter has reached this stage, you can feed it at night before bedtime and use it to mix your dough in the morning. If using this natural starter to leaven your dough, decrease the amount to 200 grams (per kilo of flour total) and increase the water to 750 grams.


  • 85 grams seed mixture: flax, poppy, and toasted sesame
  • 650 grams whole grain wheat flour
  • 350 grams sifted white wheat flour
  • 700 grams water (70 deg ℉) (750 grams if using natural leaven)
  • 400 grams poolish pre-ferment – recipe above (200 grams if using natural leaven)
  • 30 grams salt

At least one hour prior to mixing dough, soak the seed mixture with 85 grams of hot water to absorb water and cool to room temperature.

To mix the dough, add the water to a large bowl. Add the pre-ferment and stir to disperse. Add the blend of white and whole wheat flours. Using your hands, mix thoroughly until no bits of dry flour remain. Let the dough rest for 20 - 40 minutes.

After the rest, add the 30 grams of salt with the mixture of seeds and incorporate into the dough. Dipping your hands in water, continue to fold the dough on top of itself to develop the dough and dissolve the salt. You can add a splash of water to help dissolve the salt. Let the dough rise for about 3-4 hours at moderately warm room temperature (78 deg ℉) giving a dozen turns in the bowl every half-hour to continue to develop. After this initial (bulk) rise, you are ready to portion and weigh your dough into individual pieces for loaves and, after the final shaping, retard the rising for another day in the fridge to develop more flavor.

If you’d like to use the dough on the same day: portion into 2-3 pieces and shape into rounds. Place each round into a linen-lined basket and let rise at the same moderate warm room temperature for another 3-4 hours before baking.

If retarding the rising for another 12+ hours: cover and place in the fridge for up to 16 hours.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat your oven along with a heavy Dutch oven and a tight-fitting lid to 500 deg ℉. Remove the loaves from the fridge. Carefully flip the loaf into the pre-heated Dutch oven. Place the lid on top to seal completely, and put back into the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 470 deg ℉ and bake for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and bake out for another 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown. Remove bread to wire rack to cool.

If you’re baking multiple loaves, carefully wipe the Dutch oven clean with a dry kitchen towel and repeat the process beginning with pre-heating the oven.

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Cacio e Pepe with Fresh Whole Wheat Fettuccine

Fresh pasta is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  So many of us are carb junkies, and pasta is my drug of choice.  As much as I love eating it, I always love making it.  This time around, I kept it simple.  On a recent weeknight, the craving hit hard.  I could have made something fancy, but I've been trying to challenge myself to cook with what I have on hand.  Living in the city, it's so easy to run out for this or go pick up that.  But not this time--I created this dish with only what I had on hand.  I also didn't want to be a slave to cooking for the night (it WAS a school night.)  Start to finish, this took about 2 hours.  The result was pure comfort.  I didn't have to grocery shop for anything in this recipe, and with the whole wheat flour mixed in, I didn't even feel guilty about eating it.  After all, a little butter and cheese never hurt anyone, right?

For all of you pasta lovers out there, I encourage you to try making pasta on a weeknight too.  I've made pasta the authentic way before... building a flour mountain on the counter top, digging a well, dropping the eggs and oil in the middle and slowly swirling the whole combo together until the dough comes together.  After a rest, I would then use a hand-crank pasta machine, or even, gasp, slice strands with a knife.  But that's not me anymore.  Now I rely on my trusty food processor and stand mixer with pasta cutting attachment to do the work.  I assure you, both methods give the same result!  I even gave away my hand-crank pasta machine a few years ago.  Here are my must-have kitchen staples for making fresh pasta:

You could definitely add to this recipe as you wish.  Ramps are now starting to pop up in farmers markets on the east coast--they would be awesome in this.  Fresh corn or sliced parsnips would be lovely too.  Give it a shot!

Cacio e Pepe with Fresh Whole Wheat Fettuccine

Pasta serves 6-8.  Sauce serves 2 (double as necessary.)



1 1/2 cups all purpose white flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

4 eggs

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt



2 tbsp. salted butter

1/4 cup grated pecorino romano

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste


1.  Add the flour and salt to a food processor.  Pulse until mixed.  Add eggs and olive oil to the food processor and pulse until combined.  Drizzle in water, 1 tsp. at a time, just until a ball forms.  Remove ball from the food processor, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 1 hour.

2.  Once rested, cut the dough into eighths, working 1/8 at a time.  When working with 1/8 of the dough, leave the rest covered so that it doesn't dry out.  Set pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece into rectangle; run through machine. Fold in half crosswise (end to end) and run through again. Continue, adjusting machine to narrower settings after every 2 passes and dusting with flour as needed to keep from sticking, until pasta sheet passes twice through the 2nd thinnest setting. Place sheet on lightly floured work surface; cover with plastic. Repeat with remaining pasta pieces.

3.  Once all of your sheets are made, run each through the fettuccine cutter.  If your sheets are more than a foot long, cut their length to your liking.  If you don't have a fettuccine cutter, you can always cut with a knife.  Allow your cut fettuccine to dry on a drying rack until ready to be cooked.  Remember to keep each strand separate to avoid sticking.  If you don't plan on cooking the pasta right away, once it's dry, you can place in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze for 1 month.

Note: This pasta recipe feeds 6-8 people.  Since I was only cooking and saucing for 2, I boiled a third of the pasta and refrigerated the rest.  The saucing instructions that follow are to feed 2 people.

4.  Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for approximately 3 minutes.  Once the pasta floats to the top, it's usually ready.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.

5.  While waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a generous amount of black pepper (to your liking, of course.)  Cook the pepper for 1 minute.  Lower the heat to low until you add the pasta.

6.  Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it directly to the saute pan with the butter and pepper and raise the heat back to medium.  Toss the pan to distribute the butter.  Add the two grated cheeses and toss again to start to melt the cheese. Stirring constantly, add the reserved cooking water, a splash at a time, until the cheese is really melty and a sauce emerges.  Taste for salt.  If needed, add some.  Serve hot.

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