Slow-cooked lamb makes a simple, earthy dinner

Harvest Menu

by Betsy Carnie

Harvest Menu

Elizabeth Cecil

The menu: slow-cooked lamb shoulder with pomegranate seeds, roasted butternut squash, arugula and mint salad with homemade yogurt cheese, scented chocolate truffles made with Taza chocolate.  

I have heard many locals say that fall is their favorite time of year on the Island. The mania of summer feels like a hazy, distant memory. The pace of life is more even and steadier now: to school again, home again; earlier to dinner, earlier to bed. As harvest time comes to our part of the world, isn’t the Vineyard a very hospitable place to be?

The plenitude of the harvest abounds everywhere: our CSA bags brim over, the bowls and platters on our dinner table are bulging, our freezer drawers overflow. The world feels full of food, and rich food at that.

Having left behind the hot summer air, we also left behind the more watery, hot-weather foods like cucumbers and summer squashes. Our palate this time of year tends toward the heartier: rougher greens and winter squashes. And even for those who eat red meat only occasionally, omnivores among us might find reason to indulge in locally raised meats this time of year. The harvest season is when animals who have been outside grazing and growing all summer are ready for slaughter.

When I think of a cold-weather dinner, I want something that is simple, rich, and low-stress. I propose this menu as a meal that celebrates the plenitude of the season. It requires relatively little attention near serving time, so if you have guests, or even just family, you can devote your attentions to them and not to bustling around in the kitchen right before the food is served.

Most of the menu may be done at your leisure, well in advance. The homemade yogurt cheese and chocolate truffles should be made ahead. The lamb shoulder is set to slow-cook 6 to 8 hours. As dinnertime approaches, you have only to roast the butternut squash, pull the shoulder meat, arrange the food in bowls and on platters, and add a few finishing touches. This makes entertaining easy; you can even invite diners at the last minute, perhaps a neighbor you’ve been meaning to catch up with whom you haven’t seen since those first few days of spring.