Free Range on Food: Getting smoky flavors from a gas grill, the state of fast casual dining, cooking for the long weekend and more.

Aug 30, 2017

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! I'm taking the baton from Bonnie, who is on vacation.

Hope you're enjoying this week's food coverage, including Tim's expert explainer on the fast-casual phenomenon; Jim Shahin's tutorial on getting smoke flavor into gas-grilled food; Tamar Haspel's look at whether making produce cheaper might increase consumption of vegetables; Emily Horton's ode to tomato gravy; Dave McIntyre's tasting of Trump wines; and more.

Of course, we also have a heavy heart here as we look at the photos and videos coming out of Houston, where some of us have deep connections. Tim wrote about DC restaurants that are helping raise money to help people with food, shelter and other urgent needs after Hurricane Harvey.

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today, as usual: "The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek" by Howard Markel and "15-Minute Vegan" by Katy Beskow.

And for you PostPoints members, today's code is coming -- stay tuned!

Let's do this.

What is the the best way to preserve leftover rice?

I let it cool to room temp, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. If you want to go longer, stash it in a zip-top bag and keep it in the freezer.

And when you're ready to use it again, here are some recipes!

Vegetable Fried Rice

ARTICLE: How much do we love rice? Let us count the ways.

This question could also go to Tom! I was served an organic red leaf salad at a restaurant and the leaves had little holes throughout. My question, was the salad safe to eat or should I have asked for another one?

Totally safe to eat. Just means that some pests got there before you did, but as far as I'm concerned, that's proof that it's organic!

This is for Joe my go to cook and gardener. I have been spending the summer where it has been hot and dry. My cabbage has produced a lot of leaves but because of the dryness has not headed well. Can I pull off the leave and put them in soups and stressed and use them for stuffing?

Absolutely. (Although I'm not sure what you mean by "stressed" -- an autocorrect problem, maybe?) You can use them the same way you'd use headed cabbage: Slice it up for slaw, saute/braise like you would other greens, etc.

Opened a can of this decadent stuff and ended up making some very fine pina coladas. Anything else I can do with the rest of the can? If you tell me more pina coladas, that would be OK too.

Ok well you should definitely make this pina colada.

Sweet Liberty’s Pina Colada

RECIPE: Sweet Liberty’s Pina Colada

Another option: Piña Colada Granita!

And another drink to try:


RECIPE: Basiado

Or you could make a Coconut Cake With Lemon Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting.

I also applaud the restaurant for not wasting food that isn't perfect-looking.


I got excited when I saw that recipe, because I have a box of figs in the refrigerator. But I don't have fig jam, and closed the recipe because I didn't want to buy it just to use one tablespoon. Does it really matter in this case?

Bonnie's not here, but I will channel her and say, go forth with an easy substitution -- the jam of your choice, also known as the jam or jelly you have in the house! The point is a little extra sweetness. Of course, you can also skip it.

RECIPE: Fig and Brie Omelets

I put the garlicky marinated tomatoes over a pot of pasta with some mozzarella and basil. Very yummy, very quick and very inexpensive. Thanks for the easy recipe.

So glad to hear this! Yes, Julia Turshen did a bang-up job with all of her summer recipes for that collection a few weeks back. She'll be thrilled that you appreciated this one.

RECIPE: Garlicky Marinated Tomatoes

ARTICLE: The secret to cooking with your favorite summer produce: Keep it simple.

I got a good deal on these ribs, and made them following this recipe. The taste was great, but the consistency was shoe leather; dry and chewy. What went wrong? Was the cooking time off?

       This isn't my recipe, but as the Smoke Signals bbq columnist, I do a lot of ribs - albeit on a grill, not in the oven - so I'll take a stab. After looking at the recipe, I think the problem may be the meat itself. 

      The cooking time and temp look good to me. The reason I think it may be the meat is that country ribs can tend toward being chewier than spare ribs because they don't have as much fat. Something that might help next time is adding about a half-cup of water to the baking pan and setting the ribs on a rack. That will provide moisture. 

Hi no question just a quick reply to the corn holder story, one of the first gifts my boyfriend gave me were "corn dogs". A set of different types of dogs, the front halves and the rear halves that went into the ends of corn. For laughs we mixed the breeds..anyway always loved that gift original and charming:) 

I have tons of basil what may I use it for other than Pesto?

Warm Parmesan Pound Cake With Whipped Mascarpone, Raspberries and Basil Sugar

Add to salads, salad dressings, marinades, scatter over almost anything with tomatoes or eggplant or cheese, muddle into drinks, make basil sugar (for this cake or to use with other fruity desserts), infuse in cream or buttermilk to make ice cream...I can keep going!

And now for your PostPoints code: It's FR4531 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Wouldn't a mix of chopped figs and honey be a good substitute?

Sure -- and chopped dried figs would make it even closer to jam. (Or just go with that a little drizzle of honey since there are already figs in it.)

I think you could also chop up a couple of figs; add honey; a squeeze of lemon; and maybe a little water, cider or white wine; and cook it down (stirring frequently) until you've got a jam-like consistency.

Well, yeah, but this is a really quick recipe, so I'd be tempted to do something much more off the cuff (read: lazier), personally.

Now I'm torn, because we were just given a half-dozen garden tomatoes! Which recipe do I use tonight? (Nora Ephron's calls for adding the chopped basil to the marinade.)

You use our recipe, of course. Duh.

A question for Joe - I will be in Portland for one night next week, and would appreciate restaurant recommendations. Love seafood, wouldn't mid a perfect piece of blueberry pie, but open to any suggestions. Thanks.

Are you SURE you can't squeeze in an extra meal? I say that because when you said seafood, I immediately thought of sending you to Eventide, which does beautiful things in that regard. But then you would miss out on some of my all-time favorite pizza at Slab. Squeeze a lunch in!

There are lots of other possibilities depending on what you're in the mood for, so I'll send you to a favorite resource: Portland Food Map!

Please report back.

Did I miss the Great British Bake Off last night. I had the DVR set from last year but nothing recorded last night.

It aired in Britain, but it's always a long while before a season comes to PBS.

With the long weekend and maybe rain for my area on Saturday, I'd like to do some baking, specially some savory baking. I'm considering that Cheddar, Pancetta, and Spring Onion scones, but I'd really love to do croissants or even a savory pie. Any suggestions?

Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie

Have you made a tomato pie lately? I finally made Ann Marotto's Fresh Tomato Pie last weekend (I say "finally" because this pie is seriously hyped in these chats, and for good reason); highly recommend it. 

Rustic Heirloom Tomato Crostata

Or this Rustic Heirloom Tomato Crostata looks good, too (clearly I have tomatoes on my mind).

Cheddar, Pancetta and Spring Onion Scones

Those scones are great, too.


I read with interest Jim's article on smoking on a gas grill, as that is how I got my start smoking (ribs, then butts, chickens, then turkeys, eventually DIY sausages and bacon), and have come to the conclusion that it's a lot like smoking on a charcoal grill: a lot of trial and error to find what works right for you, but you can achieve smoky, succulent things with it. What I find most different is the end flavor with charcoal (particularly lump) rather than gas. No matter the amount or type of wood smoke - fruit woods seems to work really well with gas for me - there's a lingering gas taste that I can pick up.

        Agreed, cooking on a grill, whether gas or charcoal, does take a lot of trial and error. Interesting that you are picking up on a gas taste. Score one for charcoal, I guess. 

ARTICLE: Think you can’t get smoky flavors from a gas grill? Try this.

My daughter loves the flat, pink/red smoked salmon from the package and lox on a bagel. We ordered a "smoked salmon" appetizer at a restaurant and it was a smoked filet of salmon, which she did not like. It was flaky, pinkish/whitish, and basically a filet of fish. How is the first one different? Do they slice a different part of the fish? Do they smoke it or cure it differently? They are definitely two different beasts! Thank you from this non-fish eater who wants to encourage fish.

      Smoked salmon of the type served on bagels is cold-smoked, which is generally considered to be less than 100 degrees F. The smoked salmon appetizer you received at the restaurant was likely hot-smoked, which creates an entirely different texture - the one you describe, in fact. Hot smoking for salmon varies widely from about 185 to 275 degrees F. Me, like 225. 

       Lox is cured in a brine or sugar-salt rub. Nova Lox is cured, then cold-smoked. Hot-smoked salmon is typically cured, then smoked. 

        Ask your server next time what type of smoked salmon they're serving and make sure you get a clear description, so you can avoid another surprise.  


I've never pickled or canned anything before, but my garden is overflowing with jalapenos and banana peppers. I loved pickled peppers and would love to be able to make some, but I don't have any special equipment (although I do have many mason jars). Any advice/recipes? How long will they last?

Whole Pickled Snacking Peppers

Sounds like our recipe for Whole Pickled Snacking Peppers is your ticket! These last for up to a month in the refrigerator; they're not canned, so no special equipment is needed. You can use the brine with almost any type of pepper (you'll see several suggestions listed in the headnote). 

Joe thanks for the answer. I asked about using them in soups and stews but the software thought it knows more than I.


For a casual meal, try Figgy's Takeout and Catering. I've never eaten there, but I can vouch for the chef since she had a place far away in our vicinity. Oh was her food good! We were sad when she left, and though it's been years, I still think about her biscuits.

In town: Duck Fat, further out: The Great Lost Bear.

With regard to the Tamar Haspel article on whether or not making vegetables cost less would increase consumption, I don't think it would make a huge difference initially. I think that it would be necessary to teach people how to make vegetables tasty. Too many people seem to only steam or eat their vegetables raw. That can be boring after awhile. As anecdotal evidence, I can't recall the last picnic I was invited to where I wasn't asked to bring dilly beans or other canned vegetables). So I'd think that cheaper plus know-how would increase consumption much more than just one or the other.

I doubt she would disagree about the importance of know-how!

ARTICLE: Can making vegetables cheaper improve our health?

I am a Northerner (of New York and New England) as well as Italian-American. Never made tomato gravy until I saw it on an episode of Trisha's Southern Kitchen. She had been to Biscuit Love and recreated theirs. I used polenta instead of grits (yeah, big difference) and could not get enough of it. It's a game changer for when I have tomatoes about to go bad and have enough sauce in my freezer.

What is the difference between coconut cream and cream of coconut? Thanks,Matilde

Coconut cream is the stuff that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk -- generally it's not sweetened (unless, you know, your coconut milk is sweetened). You can also buy coconut cream straight up (Trader Joe's makes it, the Internet tells me.)

Cream of coconut is sweetened, creamed coconut. 

When I was a teenager in the 1970s I tried to eat corn on the cob after I got my braces. It didn't go well at all so after that I started cutting it off the cob with a serrated knife. Forty years later and I'm still doing it that way. My fingers get a little hot but that's ok.

I (sadly) live in the 'burbs, but based on Bonnie's response about best chickens, I don't even know where to start - any ideas. Sorry Joe. I am trying to shift my family to a plant-based diet, but it's gonna take time.

I'm not sure where you are exactly, but how about a farmers market? There are so many in the area, surely there's one near you? 

When I cook with brown eggs I seem to get small pieces of shell in the egg. Not so much with white eggs. Any idea what I am doing wrong? Thanks.

Where are you getting the brown eggs, and where the white? Are they the same brand/producer/source? The only thing I can think of is that thin-shelled eggs are often because chickens didn't get enough calcium in their diet, so it could just be the case with the source of your brown eggs.

But for all eggs, here's a tip: Crack them on a FLAT surface, not on the edge of a bowl. That can keep small pieces from dislodging and ending up in the egg/dish.

The best way I found for cutting a quantity of corn off the cob is to put a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and rest the cob on the small bowl as you cut. The larger bowl contains it. Great for when preparing a quantity of blanched, chilled corn on the cob for freezing

Yes, this works well. But my favorite way is to simply cut each cob in half crosswise. The shorter they are, the less distance those kernels have to fall, so they don't stray so much.

Do you have any experience with pellet smokers and any recommendations on brands/models? Thanks!

      I have very limited experience with pellet smokers. My understanding is that Traeger and Green Mountain make quality pellet smokers. The guys at do a lot of product testing, including of pellet smokers. You might check out what they have to say.

Something went right this year and I managed to grow a bounty of poblano peppers. I've used them to make several chili varieties already (both verde and red). Looking for other creative recipes which use them, although preferably not stuffed, as mine always fall apart. Soups or stews? Sauces? Freeze some?

I am jealous.

Roast 'em, peel 'em, take out their seeds, cut 'em into thick strips and you've got rajas. Freeze these in zip-top bags and use them in future recipes, such as rajas con crema or Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole (Cazuela Azteca); they're also great added to mac and cheese, salsas, potato salads or tacos. (If you were being very careful, you might consider first freezing the rajas on a parchment lined baking sheet and then transferring them to a zip-top bag for longer storage; you know, to keep them separate and to make your life easier in the long run.)

Other ideas: 

Poblano, Bacon and Cheddar Skillet Corn Bread

RECIPE: Poblano, Bacon and Cheddar Skillet Corn Bread

El Rey Nachos

RECIPE: El Rey Nachos

Chicken With Black Beans, Spices and Sweet Potatoes

RECIPE: Chicken With Black Beans, Spices and Sweet Potatoes

Grilled King Oyster Mushroom and Poblano Sandwich

RECIPE: Grilled King Oyster Mushroom and Poblano Sandwich

Thank you for this latest article about feeding more than our stomachs. I applaud you and The Post. Your readers, the restaurants and others you mention, and anyone/place wanting to donate should know that they can check this site for links to all the reputable charities based in Texas that are helping with Harvey  -- and that they include the Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi.

Thank you!

Even cracking them flat. It's definitely a brown egg vs white egg issue - I've bought brown eggs from a number of different sources.

But have you bought WHITE eggs from a number of different sources? I once floated a theory about egg-peeling by the eminent food scientist Harold McGee, and he shot it down because I had done such a limited amount of testing. Eggs are so variable in age, source, etc., that it takes a LOT of testing, of hundreds of eggs from many many different types of sources to suss out real differences, IMO.

I hate low-fat cheese and never use it. For regular cheese, should I cut down a bit on the amount in case the cheese overwhelms the fresh tomato taste?

Same, actually! I used full-fat everything (no adjustments otherwise) and it was perfect.

I just signed up to get a weekly delivery from a company that sells/delivers produce that would otherwise go to waste as either overpurchased or imperfect. Two good things: the company sends an email with a list of items I'll be getting several days before the delivery, and I can choose to omit certain things (but I only specified no spicy peppers - otherwise I'm easy). These items are not exotic, and I'm not a bad cook, but I'm still a bit stressed about building meals around what I'm getting, rather than planning a menu, then buying ingredients. Do you have any generic tips for dealing with CSA-type deliveries? Thank you!

1. Be flexible.

2. Behold the power of roasting. When in doubt, toss with olive oil and salt, throw on a pan in a hot (450-500-degree) oven, and roast until tender/browned.

3. Taste, taste, taste. Try things raw, try them cooked.

4. Don't be afraid to cook for a LONG time and mash with lots of olive oil or butter and salt!

I too have an enormous amount of hot peppers- a combination of my being seduced by the pictures and names and their remarkable productivity. For the past two years, I have preserved them using a very simple recipe in Nancie McDermot's excellent book, Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking. Half cup white vinegar and one tablespoon fish sauce (I use Red Boat). Increase proportionally as required. Add peppers. Refrigerate. While she advises keeping them only a month or two, some of the peppers in my jar are likely over a year old. Thickly-cut jalapenos work best. Besides Thai food, I use them on pizza, Mexican food, Indian food, McDonald's hamburgers, et al. Very versatile.

Yes! For years I only bought white eggs, from many different sources, and didn't have problems with the shell. I would avoid brown eggs if I could, but the organic cage free ones all seem to be brown where I shop.

All types of peppers freeze well RAW! Remove stem end, cut the pepper in half, then remove the ribs and seeds (remember to wear rubber gloves for all hot peppers!). Dice. Pour into freezer bags, zip closed and freeze. Be SURE to mark each bag with the type of pepper in it. When ready to use, if you don't need a whole bag-ful, just whack it against the counter and their break apart, so you can pour out exactly how much you need!

Hello, I tried recently to make the Doris Greenspan biscuits from the WP recipe finder. I made them as instructed, I did substitute buttermilk for cottage cheese but did so as the recipe instructed. After I mixed everything together but before I cut the biscuits and baked them, I had something come up and had to leave them for probably 45 minutes. When I got back to them, I cut them out and baked, but they did not rise at all. What did I do wrong? Was it because I left them too long before baking? My baking soda and baking powder is not very old. Thanks

Hi! Dorie says this:

I have heard of biscuits not rising as high as a baker might like, but not rising at all is a real puzzler. With as much baking powder as that recipe has, 'not at all' seems impossible. Could the baker have left out the baking powder by mistake? No, probably not.

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Herbed Cottage Cheese Biscuits

Perhaps you don't see those tiny little pieces with white eggs because they are ...white.

I find it on things that have to be on the grill a long time - shoulders & butts in particular. Other things I haven't really noticed it. But maybe I'm just comparing it to the charcoal taste and calling it a gas taste because it's different.

     Maybe. Dunno. Wonder if other chatters have had the same experience. 

In your tomato gravy, what did you put the gravy on top of? That ricey-bready thing looks really good too! 

Tomato Gravy With Okra

It's a piece of Danish-style bread I brought back from this bakery in Reykjavik.

It is the best bread I have ever eaten.

I am hoarding the rest in my freezer.

I have my eye on this Saveur recipe for the sadsadsad day when my stash runs out. 

These are great for cooking in a slow cooker and they come out moist with meaty flavor.

     Yes! A slow cooker for country ribs is a great way to go. 

Another suggestion derived from a previous chat -- if you have a cookbook collection, sign up for Eat Your Books. I enter random CSA ingredients into the search function all the time to get ideas.

Maybe the variable is the cage-free organic part, not the color of the shell....

Now we're getting somewhere!

Could you use different types of peppers in the same jar?

The recipe recommends keeping them separate so that the peppers' flavors remain distinct, but...¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I'd do it.

Hi, Thanks so much for the "Stock the crock" book you all sent. Coming into fall, I use my crockpot a lot, and this is a wonderful collection of recipes! Robin

I picked up three Giant Oyster Mushrooms (that's how they were labeled) at a farmer's market, and while the one I sliced and sauteed for an omelet was indeed dense and meaty textured, it had almost no flavor. What should I do with the two larger ones I still have? Treat them like tofu and marinate?

I love these -- also called king oysters -- because of that texture, but you're right, they're not super-high in flavor. I like to grill them and brush them with a sauce -- a little miso works wonders. But marinating, yes!

And anyone who wants to make vegs to be more flavorful, suggest getting Joe's book, "Eat Your Vegetables."

They're pickled green beans -- and thanks for the plug!

I try to cook mostly vegan dinners but they're starting to taste the same and I'm running out of new ideas. I love black beans but enough already. My husband says I'm going to turn into a bean. That said, I did make your arroz con chorizo on Monday and it's always a winner.

I've got an idea for you! I'm going to make an early call and send you one of the giveaway books: "15-Minute Vegan." Lots of good ideas in there! Just send your mailing address to, and she'll send it your way!

i have used a CSA for years and now am going with the box of 'imperfect' stuff. It's fun! actually. It did take me time to realize what goes bad first -- and hence those were the meals to make first. Then what else I could do with the other stuff, and what I could make and freeze, etc etc. It has actually been fun -- the 'choosing' of the ingredients doesn't stress me out anymore, I have what I have! So I google things, and use what I have with recipes I like, but really -- it could take a little bit of time to know how to do it. Start with a smaller box if you can.

Bucatini has been my favorite pasta since I was a kid in the dark ages (especially con la sarde). HOWEVER! I've never mastered eating it neatly, even though I'm now nearing 80. So, any help for this problem? Or am I doomed to only eat it in solitude? P.S. the recipe for Bucatini in Chunky Eggplant Sauce needs an anchovy sauteed with the garlic ;-)

I say get a bib, invite some non-judgmental friends over, and have fun!

PS: If you want an anchovy, go for it!

"Do Brown Eggs Have a Harder Shell? The shells of both color eggs have the same thickness. If you've ever noticed that an eggshell seems tougher, it's because of the age of the chicken, and not the color of the egg. Younger chickens tend to lay eggs with harder shells, while older chicken lay eggs with thinner shells. This is true of both white and brown eggs." Maybe the cage-free, organic eggs are coming from older chickens.

Hmm, maybe! Can I ask the source of your quoted material?

The only time I've tasted a really "off" flavor in smoked meat is when a friend insisted on using lighter fluid in his smoker. Ruined a great piece of beef, clear down inside.

      Aaaaargh!!! Lighter fluid!!! My hair's on fire just thinking about using it! 

Would like to make mozzarella cheese and already got rennet, citric acid, thermometer and watched several tutorials, now: where I can get not highly pasteurized milk? Don’t have a car so it needs to be metro or bus accessible. Thanks!

I wonder if milk from Trickling Springs Creamery might work? They're widely available in the DC metro area.

Any feel for how subbing gruyere for the cheddar would go?

I think that'd be fine.

Yep, I've just got a gas grill (griller loser). I had high hopes that I could smoke some stuff, but after reading your article, sounds like I need to get a charcoal grill - recommendations?

     I think, with a little practice using indirect heat, you can smoke most everything, including big meats like pork butt and beef brisket (and, of course, ribs) on a kettle grill. For something with less of a learning curve, I like the Weber Smokey Mountain (about $300). It's an excellent vertical smoker. For a Texas-style offset, you'll want to get into something well made that doesn't leak a lot, such as a Horizon or Lang, but then you're getting into some serious dollars. 

The Kitchn: No citations, alas.

Of course I'll eat more if they cost less! And I'll buy fresh instead of frozen if prices become comparable. Imagine -- If you're on a budget and can afford to test a new food, in this case a vegetable, aren't you likelier to do so if it's not a splurge that might turn out to be wasteful if you don't like the taste?

Hope you folks have some ideas. Trying to find a healthy recipe for granola bars for breakfast. Most of the recipes have so much sugar as a binder. Thoughts?

We're running short on time, but I wrote a column on just this very subject, so I'll point you there and hopefully you'll find one (or more!) that you like! I can vouch for ALL of them.

Three new reasons to stop buying energy bars

555 on Congress Street is my favorite. I've been going there for years.

YES to doing them in the slow cooker. I chop a Vidalia onion roughly and throw that in the cooker (the onion chunks get super soft and sweet), then rest the meat on top. Then I pour over a mixture of BBQ sauce and beer (1:1, about 3/4 cup of each for up to 1.5 lbs of meat). Cover and cook for about 9 hours. Then shred the meat, put it back in the cooker, and mix with the liquid and onions. Serve on a roll, over rice or egg noodles, etc. Super easy.

I was sure I'd scan today's Food chat to discover that Dave's wine column had stirred up a hornet's nest by covering the winery owned by He Who Shall Not Be Named, but no, not a peep. C'mon, Food chat participants: Where's your online outrage? Let's spread some social-media ire! (Good column, BTW.)

I was visiting some playmates' house when we were little, and their mom had gone out to work in the garden while we stayed in the kitchen. We opened a box of bucatini, and each used one as a drinking straw! The mom wasn't very happy we she came in and caught us.

Well, you've smoked us until we're ... smoky? ... so you know what that means, we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Jim for help with the a's. Now for the remaining giveaway book: "The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek" will go to the chatter who first raised that issue of brown versus white egg shells. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get it to you!

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading -- and happy Labor Day!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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