A Harvest Dinner Party + Recipe for Fried Polenta Salad with Lemon Olive Salsa

Last updated: July 28, 2021

Hosting a Harvest Dinner with Vegetarian Wine Pairings {Heartbeet Kitchen}Hosting a Harvest Dinner with Vegetarian Wine Pairings {Heartbeet Kitchen}Hosting a Vegetarian Dinner Party {amanda of heartbeet kitchen}

A few weeks ago I hosted my first dinner party. A plated four-course Harvest Meal, built around my favorite fall ingredients and some of my favorite people around the table. Some knew each other, some were meeting each for the first time. But what we all had in common was a love for sharing a meal together, as women, as regular people. Brought together by food, one of the most powerful and common bridges.

Although I was the host, I felt like the lucky one.

I cook {a lot}, but I’d never planned something quite like this before, with tablescape, printed menus, and my own “heartbeet touch“. I wanted it to be special, yet relaxed. And I wanted to enjoy the experience along with those attending, which meant planning and prep would be important, something I’d learned along the way with cooking classes.

As I sketched out the menu on pen and paper (I work best that way), my thoughts buzzed around the local fruits and vegetables of fall, with no real need for meat or seafood. It would be a vegetarian menu, {and vegetarian wine pairings, courtesy of partner, LangeTwins wines} that would make even a carnivore happy and content.

I rented a beautiful rustic studio (because we don’t use a dining room table at home), with its bright whites and farmhouse style table, and relied on vibrant fall flowers from the farmers market to bring pops of color. Linens with neutral colors, a menu printed with handwritten lettering, short stem wine glasses…. and all of a sudden things started to take shape.

Hosting a Harvest Dinner {Heartbeet Kitchen}Hosting a Harvest Dinner {Heartbeet Kitchen}

The Menu

course 1: Crispy Polenta Squares, Mixed Greens, and Lemon Olive Salsa paired with LangeTwins Gewurztraminer (recipe at the end of post)
Bright, zesty, salty salad. Paired to round, mellow, apricot.

I choose a salad over soup or other appetizer because I wanted to give the palette a clean, fresh start. The Lemon Olive Salsa was one of my favorite components of the whole meal, a recipe inspired by Suzanne Goin. The flesh and strips of lemon are tart and delicious, combined with a large amount of sweet and salty castelveltrano olives, and shallots that sit in red wine vinegar. And because I miss croutons, the fried polenta bites were a riff on the crunchy component of salads. Crispy and golden on the outside, but delicate inside.

Fried Polenta Squares with Mixed Greens + Lemon Olive SalsaLange Twins Dinner - Fried Polenta Squares + Meyer Lemon Olive Salsa

course 2: Roasted Tomatoes and Butternut Squash with Cardamom Yogurt paired with LangeTwins Sauvignon Blanc
The sweetness of squash and tomatoes, warmly spiced cardamom. Paired to clean and crisp, with hints of green.

This was the first piece of the menu that I committed to. Having posted the recipe on the blog a few weeks ago, I was so struck by the marriage of these two vegetables that typically aren’t served together. And I really wanted to introduce others to it, especially the savory cardamom yogurt that truly ties the knot. I paired this with Sauvignon Blanc which may sound surprising, but what I love about LangeTwins wines is that they truly let the grape shine, instead of making to fit general characteristics, such as grapefruit zest, minerality, and tart. The key to this pairing is the crispness, not overwhelming acidic, and its clean finish that washes away the delicate sweetness from the vegetables, and the creaminess of the yogurt.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomatoes with Cardamom Yogurt {gluten-free, vegetarian} Hosting a Vegetarian Dinner Party {amanda of heartbeet kitchen}

course 3: Seared Cauliflower Steaks, Minnesota Wild Rice with Leeks, and Rosemary Bechamel paired to LangeTwins Cabernet Sauvignon
Earthy, hearty, nutty. Paired to soft, round, red cherry and warm spices.

Plant steaks are better than meat steaks, in my humble opinion. My method for making it crispy, yet soft inside is to cook the steaks in simmering water for five minutes with a brine of peppercorns, salt, garlic powder, and olive oil. This helps cook the cauliflower through, with flavor, before going into the hot oven for it’s final roast that gives it those crispy edges we all love. The wild rice and leeks were the umami component, much like mushrooms in vegetarian cooking, but I find mushrooms to be a risk when throwing a dinner party because many aren’t fond of the texture. And I made my first bechamel! Adapting this recipe by using brown rice flour to make it gluten-free, and it wasn’t one bit grainy. Silky as could be.

Cauliflower Steaks with Wild Rice and Rosemary Bechamel {paired to Cabernet Sauvignon}Hosting a Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Dinner Party

course 4: Five Spice Caramel Apple Sundae paired to LangeTwins Family Moscato
A sweet/tart, buttery, vanilla laced sundae. Evenly matched sweetness, peachy, aromatic.

Harolson apples are a fantastic dessert apple because they’re more on the tart side and hold up well to being cooked. I sautéed them in butter and five spice powder to bring some dimension, and made a quick caramel of brown sugar, apple cider, butter, and cream. Spooned hot over vanilla ice cream with roasted pecans and crushed gluten-free graham crackers, it was the perfect ending, and the perfect match to Moscato. I know……..  the first thing that probably comes to your mind when you hear that varietal is syrupy sweet, but when paired to a dessert that matches its sweetness, it actually doesn’t taste sugary. My guests questioned my decision (and I was ready for it!), but they surprisingly fell in love with this pairing. I highly suggest giving this wine another shot.

Five Spice Hot Caramel Apple SundaeFive Spice Hot Caramel Apple Sundae Five Spice Hot Caramel Apple Sundae

It was a night we all left the busy aside, and let the nourishment of the meal, in both body and soul take priority. And I was able to share the story of LangeTwins family wine, who I had visited in California just a week before, during their grape harvest. A five generation family who grows grapes with sustainability at the forefront. The habitat they continue to revive, the care of the vineyards, the use of natural predators in place of pesticides, the family obligation to continue growing grapes since the early 1900’s…… That’s different than lots of other bottles on the shelf, and besides their wine being excellent to drink, their values fit my values. And knowing that what was in our glasses came from their passion, their dedication, added meaning to the harvest meal.

My cup overflowed with gratitude in many ways that evening, and I hope to do it again, soon.

A big thanks to LangeTwins Family Winery, who was my partner in hosting. You can find their wines distributed nationally, and locally in Minneapolis at France 44. Thank you to Ella Frances, who helped was my assistant, and snapped the pictures above of me. And especially my girlfriends who attended: Brenda, Aimee, Julia, Melissa, and Shania



A Harvest Dinner Party {with Vegetarian Wine Pairings} + Recipe for Fried Polenta Salad with Lemon Olive Salsa
Author: Amanda Paa, [url href=”http://www.marthastewart.com/255609/meyer-lemon-green-olive-salsa” target=”_blank”]salsa adapted from Suzanne Goin[/url]
Serves: 6
Make the polenta at least one day ahead.
  • for polenta:
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarse ground polenta
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan
  • 1/4 cup italian dressing mixed with 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • for salsa:
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup castelveltrano olives, finely chopped
  • peel of one lemon, without white pith, cut into thin, tiny strips about 1 inch long
  • 2 tablespoons chopped lemon flesh
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Mixed greens, olive oil, salt, pepper
  1. Bring 4 cups water and salt to a boil on the stove. Steam in the polenta, whisking continuously. Let barely simmer, barely!, for 30 minutes, stirring every 4 or 5 minutes, until thick and cooked through. Stir in garlic powder, butter and fresh parmesan. Pour into a flat, rounded baked sheet. Let sit and cool, then press parchment paper down on top of it to cover and refrigerate. Let sit overnight, ideally.
  2. For salsa, let shallots sit in red wine vinegar for 5 minutes. Then mix together with all ingredients. Let sit overnight, ideally.
  3. When ready to serve, pat polenta with paper towels to dry moisture. Cut into inch by one squares. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat on stove. Pan fry, letting sit on each side for five minutes, then flip. Do this in batches of 12, as to not crowd the polenta. Caution, polenta will splatter, so back away and let it do it’s things.
  4. Mix greens with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then top with fried polenta and 2 tablespoons salsa per plate. Serve.


Did you make this?

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October 29, 2016


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  1. I am making this tomorrow night for a dinner party but I’m confused – what is the Italian dressing listed under the polenta ingredients for? I don’t see it mentioned anywhere else. Thank you!

    • That is so strange, I have no idea why that was in there! I removed it. Just remember to dress your greens with olive oil, salt, and pepper before putting the salsa and polenta croutons on. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Great salad recipe. did anyone else find the lemon overpowering? I did. Added a bit of baking soda to neutralize – no m ore than 1/8 tx and then a tiny bit of honey. It was a big hit and left overs taste even better today.

  3. Hi, I’m new to your site but have followed you on Instagram for awhile. I can’t seem to find the recipes for the cauliflower steaks and the apple dessert. Are they on your site somewhere?

    Many thanks!

    Wendy, in Seattle

    • Hi Wendy!

      I didn’t post those two of the four recipes because I wasn’t measuring exactly when I made them. Hope to do so this winter. Thanks for stopping by and following along via IG! xo

  4. Biggest congrats to you, my friend, on such a beautiful event. I can imagine all the details and planning that went into it. I love knowing the story behind the wine – makes a meal that much more special. And the bechamel?! Brilliant. xoxo

    • Hi Kelly! Gosh, yes, funny how things started out with just a little blog, and I hope to continue to expand my horizons. I am so so glad that I took a leap of faith to follow my heart. xo

  5. What a fantastic menu!!! Let me know about any similar future events! I’m a state away over in Wisconsin, but if it isn’t the farming season, I would love to take a bit of a road trip for a meal so lovely!

    • Hi Lauren, so fun to hear you are over in Wisconsin! I lived in La Crosse for two years, and pretty much traveled the whole state for the job I had. If I’m ever coming over that way, I’ll let you know because it would be so fun to meet in real life! xo

  6. So beautiful! The care, detail, thought….so much heart. Also, I am horrible at cauliflower steaks! Can’t wait to try this method.

  7. Amanda, you’re dinner turned out so perfectly! Such lucky friends of yours. :) Table setting so festive and gorgeous, and such thoughtful and delicious food. Cauliflower steaks are something I enjoy ordering at restaurants, but have never tried at home. I’ll keep your tip of boiling them first in mind. Love those pictures of you btw- so much joy!

    • Oh, you should definitely try making cauliflower steaks at home! Easier than you think, and the leftovers can easily be reheated on the stove. I know you’ve put on quite the beautiful spread too, like that brunch gathering. So fun to see all of us create! xo

  8. This is beautiful, Amanda! That menu is what my dreams are made of – thoughtful, fluid, inspired yet familiar. Congratulations on what I’m sure was a memorable (and delicious!) night. Such a beautiful space, such a beautiful lady x

  9. I love everything about this – the rustic studio, the turquoise chairs, the delicious vegetarian menu, the wines, the conversation at the dinner table. And I love how each photo is a little snapshot in time, capturing the beautiful moments spent with friends over a wonderful meal. <3

    • Those turquoise chairs with white table stole my heart, for sure. I was happy I could capture the photos even though it was a bit of a race to sundown. Now if I could just get on the ball printing photos like we all used to do! Thanks for stopping by Sarah. xo

  10. Firstly. I wishhhhh incould have been there- looks fabulous!! Secondly, what an amazing menu. That cauliflower is making me drool… love how you approached it and love how creatively you celebrated the season’s ingredients. Just gorgeous!! And you looked beautiful as always. XO