It’s amazing what you can glean from an apple.
Every time I peel a Gravenstein, its scent reminds me of my grandparent’s Bonny Doon house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With the cupboard full of spam and the rocking chairs in front of the wood stove. The cedar and lightly mildewy scents on the back deck. The damp early morning grass and the bluejays who'd call you out to confront you about the state of the weather and their trees.
Apples in Bonny Doon started outside with Granddad, a ladder, and his applepicker stick. He’d fastened an old tin can onto the end of a long pole and would lift the can high, nestle a likely apple into it, and give it a lift and twist. The apples plucked neatly into the can to be lowered and set in the bucket. Granddad was an engineer. He ran the cider press on the back deck, cranking buckets of apples through the old wooden contraption and serving us more mugs of fresh apple juice than was strictly wise to drink.
Grammie ruled the Apple Kitchen. I helped her peel bowls upon bowls as we mounded them into homemade pie crusts and stirred enough sugar into the applesauce to make it dessert. We drank her hot instant flavored coffee, sitting on stools, racing to see who could make the longest single peel.
I still hate to break the peel’s journey around an apple. It’s like tearing a roadmap.
Apple Harvest Salad
1 small butternut squash (2-3lb)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp ground chipotle
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
9 apples, preferably Braeburn or Gravenstein
2 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried currants (to preference)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Halve butternut squash, scoop out seeds, skin, and chop into 1-inch cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and roast in hot oven until tender (about 20 - 30 minutes).
In a large bowl, make the dressing by combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chipotle, salt, ginger, and allspice. Set aside.
While squash is roasting, spread pecans out on baking sheet and toast them in the same oven until fragrant. Keep an eye on them; they'll be done in about 5 - 8 minutes. Toss hot roasted pecans directly into dressing and listen to the delightful sizzle (this will cook off some of the vinegar so it doesn't get too strong).
Cut apples into quarters, remove the cores, and slice lengthwise into moderately thin slices (about 1/8-inch). Add apple slices and toss into dressing as you go to prevent them from discoloring. Toss in currants with the apples.
When butternut squash is tender, remove from oven and let it rest about 10 minutes. Toss it in with the rest of the salad and serve warm or cold, depending on preference. This salad will be best if you allow the apples, nuts, and spices to cure together at least 20 minutes while the squash is roasting.