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Cookbook Watch

January 21, 1998

As more and more Oaxacan restaurants open in Southern California, our collective experience of what is Mexican expands. Native eaters raised on refried beans, tacos and burritos now expect not just one mole sauce on a menu but red and green and yellow as well. Sauces made with pumpkin seeds delight us but surprise us no longer. And now Zarela Martinez, chef-owner of New York's Zarela restaurant and author of several Mexican cookbooks, has written "The Food and Life of Oaxaca," an excellent guide for the cook who wants to make Oaxacan food at home. Certainly Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless have explored Oaxacan cooking in previous books, but Martinez's book, laid out in stark black and white to suggest the black pottery of Oaxaca, is a fresh, in-depth look at the region's cuisine, with an especially strong section on Oaxaca's amazing sauces.

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