Make preparing dinner the party in itself. Invite your friends to chop, slice, and sauté–then feast. (Serves 6)
Chèvre with Pistachios and Honey
Warm Chickpea, Red Pepper, and Spinach Salad with Harissa
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs
Saffron Couscous
Almond Butter Crescents
Credit: Photo: Thomas J. Story; Styling: Robyn Valarik

Staging Your Own Cooking Bash

Pick a menu that broadens guests' culinary horizons For this modern Moroccan menu, start with traditional spice blends such as ras el hanout and harissa and add seasonal, accessible ingredients.
Think interactive For themes beyond Moroccan, try Spanish tapas (lots of little dishes to make and try) or grill-your-own Korean barbecue.
Tell guests in advance what the menu is, and that they'll be cooking it.
Keep the recipes easy Everyone should be able to participate and learn something new, no matter what their skill level.
Keep the size manageable Six to eight guests is ideal–enough to share the work but not overtake the space.
Divvy up duties by interests or skills.
Be prepared Before guests arrive, assemble unprepped ingredients by recipe, along with all the equipment you'll need.
Pace the party Plan on no more than three hours for visiting and cooking–much longer and attention wanes. Start with a recipe that can be made ahead (such as cookies for this party), then move on to an appetizer so guests have something to nibble. Work on dishes like meatballs that can be partially completed, then finish up with last-minute cooking and plating of the meal.
Have fun with wine pairings For this menu, suggestions are noted with recipes. For other recipes, Sunset wine editor Sara Schneider recommends Perfect Pairings (University of California Press, 2006; $30) by Evan Goldstein. Once you've zeroed in on a flavor profile, you can ask guests to bring bottles that fit.