The race is on. We’re sprinting towards summer. And whether you’re preparing to hit the road or linger (languish;) in LA, friends will gather and get hungry. So here’s a menu that you can throw together for an impromptu meal while holding a cold drink and a conversation, be it this weekend or later this summer. Light up the grill and load up the freezer. Summer is in the air and on the horizon.

Mel’s international house of Spatchcock is introducing a smoked summer chicken. This bird will be rubbed with seasoning and kissed with hours of cherry wood smoke. You simply need to finish it in the oven or on the grill. Either way, you can shellac it with Mel’s perfectly balanced barbecue sauce. 

If you’ve got burgers on the mind, we’ve got grass-fed ground beef and organic ground turkey, Hook’s 5-year cheddar, and fresh brioche hamburger buns from the Village Bakery and Cafe in Atwater. Mel’s also making a batch of crab cakes. Loaded with lump crab and claw meat, all you need to do is sauté them in butter and serve them with a squeeze of lemon and a simple salad, perhaps on a brioche bun.

For even more things to throw on the grill, there are bratwursts from Peads and Barnetts and Niman Ranch’s all-beef hot dogs. I like to have frozen, wild shrimp on hand to add to the mix as well. And I’ve been promising my daughter a batch of pickled shrimp (I’ll post a recipe), a great appetizer on a warm night or before a grill fest.

To go with all this meat, we’re making a batch of vegan collard greens that pack a little heat and a lot of flavor. Our friends at Forage are making us a batch of their dreamy, creamy macaroni and cheese with breadcrumb topping, ready to go in the oven or freezer. We’ve also got dilly green bean pickles. And if you want to put up a pot of baked beans, we’ve got glorious, fresh cranberry beans from Two Peas in a Pod. 

There will be cabbage and carrots in the box for coleslaw fixings, and we’ll provide a favorite recipe. And to dip or douse the little gems, cucumbers, carrots and cherry tomatoes that will be in the produce box, we’re making a batch of buttermilk ranch dressing.

For long weekend or lazy summer mornings, we have Peads and Barnett’s breakfast sausage and sliced Nueske bacon

And for all the ripening summer fruits about to hit, we have frozen pie dough disks from Proof. Take this short cut to a sure crust for your pies and galettes.

If you want something sweet that’s ready to eat, we also have Cake Monkey’s decadent pecan bars, with a layer of brown butter pecan pie filling on a shortbread crust with cocoa nibs on top.