The essence of Autumn on the dinner plate.
While growing up my aunt and uncle had a huge ranch and commercial orchards in what was known as the Valley of the Heart's Delight in Santa Clara County, California. Located just south of San Jose they grew Apricots, Walnuts, and Italian Plums in the rich valley soil and hot sunshine.
Valley of the Heart's Delight kind of has a nicer "ring" to it than Silicon Valley, don't you think so?
How we kids loved going to the country to visit our aunt and uncle, to explore and get lost in imaginative adventure.
Each season brought it's own special fun. Spring, when the hundreds of acres of fruit trees were in fragrant bloom, what an undescribable treat for the senses! Hot summer days meant adventures in the creek, rafting, swimming, and learning to skip stones on the water.
Summer also brought harvest time for the Apricots and Plums, and the big noisy, scary wooden dehydrator barns down the dusty drive toward the foothills on the way to the creek. With sweaty palms I would run past them as quickly as I could; they were enormous and dark inside; the huge, grumbling fans were terribly frightening to a little girl.
Of course we could have all of the fruit and nuts we wanted, eating it freshly picked from the tree, still warm from the sun, and so juicy.
Autumn was walnut season. Whenever I see walnuts I can't help but think of the time we kids spent cracking and shelling the mountains of nuts my aunt and uncle sent home with us in large brown paper bags each year. And I remember sore hands!
How I appreciate store bought, shelled walnuts today. :)
Time marches on; the orchards and ranch were sold to a large winery many years ago. I went back to see it a couple of times, but the visits were painful. My aunt's ranch house seemed so much smaller than I remembered.
Though the orchards still extended as far as the eye could see, many of the trees were diseased or dying of old age and no longer producing like they once did. Grapevines had replaced hundreds of acres of the trees. The distant dry foothills stood out bare at the edge of the property, the view no longer shielded by the trees we used to climb and hide in, and whose fruit we would eat.
Eventually with the passage of more time, the land became too valuable to use for grape growing. It was sold. It is now a large housing subdivision.
Tender oven roasted orange squash, crunchy toasted walnuts, and brown butter sauce ~ it doesn't get much better than this for comforting fall dish. It's a delicious vegetarian dish, and also makes a good side dish.
Pasta with Oven Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Butter-Walnut Sauce
Any bite-size Pasta you like (Farfalle, Penne, Ziti, etc.)
Sometimes I add fresh whole sage leaves to the butter as I am browning it and toasting the walnuts.