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A cooking demonstration you can make book on

cutline; Maria Acosta administrative assistant of the Welcome Center Inc. leads a Mexican cooking class thursday as part of the Austin Page Turners community read at the Austin public library Thursday Nathan howard post bulletin. government p Library is setting for foods inspired by literary character

cutline; Maria Acosta administrative assistant of the Welcome Center Inc. leads a Mexican cooking class thursday as part of the Austin Page Turners community read at the Austin public library Thursday Nathan howard post bulletin.

By Nikki Merfeld

*merfeld@postbulletin.com

Usually, the only place for food at Austin Public Library is in cookbooks, but Thursday the recipes jumped out of the books and onto people's plates.

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María; Acosta made the library "a place where the senses remember" when she whipped up rice, beans, pico de gallo and guacamole in a library conference room.

The demonstration was sponsored by Austin Page Turners. It was inspired by Candelario Marroquín,; a salad-maker in Sandra Benitez's "A Place Where the Sea Remembers," the book chosen for community-wide discussion.

Acosta said she learned how to cook from her father, who was raised in Mexico. She also mastered the art of making sauerkraut from her mother, who was raised in Germany.

From her father, Acosta learned several secrets, which she let out of the bag. One is to use a mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock.

"When you buy one, make sure you take it to someone who knows how to cure it. Otherwise, all the volcanic rock, you will be eating it," said Acosta.

Another is to make fresh cilantro the last thing added to each dish. For example, pinto beans must should cook another half hour with tomatoes, onions, green pepper, salt and pressed garlic. Bacon can be added.

Cilantro -- "the main Mexican ingredient" -- should wait on the cupboard until the burner's switched off, she said.

A third tip is that lemon juice will prevent pico de gallo from turning black but has the opposite effect on guacamole.

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"Leave the (avocado) seed in there because it keeps it from turning black," said Acosta. "If you add lemon juice, it'll turn black immediately." Acosta said she makes her guacamole the same way as her pico de gallo -- with diced tomatoes, onions, hot pepper and cilantro -- and then adds the mashed avocado and its seed.

Mexican cheese, made of goat's milk, makes a nice garnish for taquitos, or filled and fried tortillas, said Acosta. She said she buys her ingredients at a local grocery store and Mexican food stores in Austin.

As she worked, Acosta fielded questions from the audience. Some impatiently told the chef the aromas wafting around the room were making them hungry.

The Rev. Karl Dalager was the first with a plate in his hand. Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz urged Dalager to face the audience as he sampled the cuisine so everyone could judge the food by the look on his face.

After the first bite, Dalager announced, "Oh, yeah.

I'll eat this food in front of anybody."

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