Fiesta Latina Guest Chef Raids White House Garden

Eh, who needs to hit the grocery store?

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    WASHINGTON - JUNE 16: Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass harvests vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden with students from Bancroft Elementary School on the South Lawn of the White House June 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. First lady Michelle Obama later sat down to a meal with the children with the lettuce and snap peas harvested from the garden to focus attention on health and nutrition. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Tuesday night's Fiesta Latina concert at the White House wasn't just a chance to showcase Latin music. The White House brought in guest chef Maricel Presilla to help tell the pan-Latin story through finger food.

    Presilla, chef and co-owner of Zafra and Cucharamama, two restaurants in Hoboken, N.J., said every item on the evening's menu was chosen to showcase some aspect of Latin culture, from the Cuban roast pork that is a nod to her own heritage to the Puerto Rican pasteles that she prepared in honor of new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.

    Even the "age of discovery" hot chocolate carried a message, harking back to a drink prepared for Mayan and Aztec royalty.

    Presilla said she was happily surprised to find tomatillos growing in the kitchen garden planted on the South Lawn by first lady Michelle Obama, and the chef used them in a hot pepper sauce she added to the menu.

    Presilla also plucked fennel and parsley from the first lady's garden and used honey from the White House beehives.

    "I felt like a farmer -- a farmer at the White House," Presilla said at an afternoon preview of the evening's menu. "I don't feel like I'm at the seat of power. I feel like I'm in a great kitchen."

    Other items on the menu: Argentine beef empanada with red chimichurri, Brazilian black-eyed pea arrumadinho, Honduran enchiladas topped with chicken hash, Guatemalan slaw and chocolate-cheese flan with hibiscus sauce.

    (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)