Crazy Neighbor Apple Crumble

My San Francisco apple treeI've been lucky enough to live in two apartments that offer views of delightful apple trees in my neighbors' gardens.  In the springtime I'm partial to their branches full of buds and flowers and at this time of year, I marvel at how the limbs bow under the weight of their fruit as they ripen from green to pink to red.  I myself am most definitely not a gardener, but I do appreciate others' good work, and have often bragged about my proximity to these fruit trees ("see the apple tree over there??") as though I had something to do with it.  Alas, none of the fruit is mine, but several apples do drop onto my side of the fence and I find endless entertainment as I watch the cheeky squirrels getting a good grip on one with their teeth and then struggle to ferry them across the grass to their little nests (my cat quite enjoys watching too).Anyway, the other night my husband and I came home and there was a large plastic bag sitting at our front door.  Now, my husband scolded me as I rushed right in to see what was inside - he's spent far too long in war zones where an abandoned bag is likely to be a bomb - meanwhile I retrieved a lovely little apple.  Our neighbor who is truly a crazy lady, old-age-pensioner (yes, that's what they call retirees over here), had left us about ten pounds of her lovely apples with a note suggesting I try cooking with them.  It makes me want to strangle her just a little less.  photo 2Today I've finally got an excuse to put her apples to work. We have friends coming to dinner and I thought an apple crumble would be just the perfect end to our meal: butternut squash dried cherry and pecan salad, tequilla lime shrimp tacos, and black beans.  I did contemplate adding a few blackberries or chopped up crystalized ginger or even a pear or two, but after I tasted a little bite of the raw apples I knew I didn't want to muddy the flavor. They are bright and crisp and acidic and sweet!  The perfect cooking apple. Plus, we've got to get busy and make our way through the enormous bag. I don't want to waste any of this very precious gift.Crazy Neighbor Apple Crumblephoto 3serves 6

3 cups peeled, chopped tart apples in bite size pieces
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a nice grating of nutmeg
1 1/4 cups oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl combine the apples with the spices and caster sugar.  Once well coated, tip them into a large, buttered baking dish.  Now combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl, mixing well. Distribute evenly over the apples.  Bake at 425 degrees for half an hour and serve with your favorite cream: ice, whipped or pouring!