Diving back in, Chef's Night Out

After a mini vacation over the weekend and a grand hurrah event today, I still feel pretty out of the loop on what's happening at the farm.  While I was away, the interns transplanted several beds of brassicas and lettuce, but there were very few volunteers over spring break, so not a ton of projects were able to happen.  While everyone started catching up on field work today, I was thick in preparing for our annual Chef's Night Out fundraiser at the Hult Center in downtown Eugene.  I prefer to stay really involved and on top of all the myriad moving parts of the farm, but I must say that checking completely out for a few days felt like a huge relief.  Everyone needs a break, right?

[Cue my giggling two-year-old niece spinning and being chased around a beach house by her five-year-old cousin while I run up from the beach with my older nieces and come in to sip wine and work on a puzzle.]

I'm one lucky lady.

And I continue to feel lucky even once I'm back from vacation.  Today I made a couple different herbal infused waters in the morning (recipe below), introduced our new academic interns to the farm, transplanted a bit with the crew, and spent the rest of the day and night at the big event.  Chef's Night Out is a foodie's dream: dozens of local restaurants and catering companies prepare small "bites" to show off their culinary skills, and visitors pay a pretty penny to attend, mingle, and try as many foods as their bellies can handle.  The proceeds go to FOOD for Lane County, but the glory goes to the winners of the various awards given, including a People's Choice that we all vote for.  

My first year, we had an info booth on the main floor.  Last year, we were in the balcony and had just herbal water and info.  This year, a restaurant near us backed out and we decided to prepare a savory bite with produce from the farm.  Our kitchen manager and volunteer coordinator, Dan, was the mastermind behind the menu: caramelized leek, sharp cheddar, and roasted walnut scones with a pesto topping made from farm fresh Swiss chard, cream cheese, and roasted hazelnuts.  It was delicious, and people loved the herbal waters, and we got to tell hundreds of people about our programs.  What's more, it's just a way for the farm crew (most of the season-long interns came to help) to have fun together off-farm and be involved in what the organization is doing as a whole.  We're pretty swamped in projects during our days, and hardly ever see other FFLC staff, so to participate in such a delicious community event got us all excited and enthused.  And who knows, maybe some of the night's visitors will end up at our plant sales or join our CSA because they found us at Chef's Night Out...

 Ted, Alice, and Sophie serving at Chef's Night Out.  

Ted, Alice, and Sophie serving at Chef's Night Out.  

Herbal Infused Waters

The basic idea is to let flavorful herbs and fruits soak in water for 4-6 hours.  The amounts and combinations of flavors is up to you.

 Orange Fennel Rosemary infused water

Orange Fennel Rosemary infused water

One idea is to combine about 3 cups of coarsely chopped cilantro, 2 cups of lemon balm leaves, and 3 large, thinly sliced limes with about 3 gallons of water.  Another flavor option is with about 3 cups of coarsely chopped fennel leaves, two large, thinly sliced oranges, and a few long sprigs of rosemary pulled off the stems with about 3 gallons of water.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, strain, and drink.  Keep refrigerated.  You can use the herbs to infuse more than one batch of water, too.  Have fun with it!

 Cilantro Lime Lemon Balm infused water

Cilantro Lime Lemon Balm infused water