This 3-Course Menu Lets You Prep Ahead and Enjoy the Party

Having friends over for dinner tomorrow? Do yourself a favor and make everything today.

More and more, I cook today for tomorrow, for any number of reasons. After a night in the fridge, many dishes improve, deepening and intensifying in flavor. Soups and stews of all sorts are usually better if made in advance. And having much of the meal already prepared makes life easier and less stressful in the long run.

All of the dishes in this menu qualify. Which is not to say you couldn’t prepare this meal from start to finish in one go, but it will only taste better if cooked ahead.

First off are herb-smeared flatbreads — inspired by manaqueesh, a savory flatbread popular in many Middle Eastern countries — which can be a snack or appetizer with (or without) a little labneh or feta. Or they can accompany the main course. The dough is easy to make by hand, preferably several hours, or a day, in advance of baking, to let it hydrate and mature and allow gluten to develop.

Recipe: Whole-Wheat Za’atar Flatbreads

Serve these whole-wheat za’atar flatbreads either as an appetizer course with a bit of labneh or feta, or alongside a savory stew for dipping.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Za’atar, the traditional spice blend containing wild thyme, sumac and sesame, makes an ideal topping. Though you can mix your own, it’s worth a trip to a Middle Eastern grocery where many different regional versions are sold. Some are heavier on sumac, others have more wild thyme, which I prefer.

Though flatbreads are commonly baked one by one on steel griddles throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, the recipe here lets you make them in the oven. If you do bake them in advance, pull them from the oven when they’re still pale, then brown them while reheating.

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