This chef tries to love all vegetables (even the slimy ones)

At his Atlanta restaurant, Dynamic Dish, chef-owner David Sweeney cooks with local produce from season to season throughout the year, finding creative uses for almost anything that Georgia farmers are growing at the time.

But Sweeney admits that there are some vegetables that even he finds hard to love. And right now, it’s Malabar spinach, an Asian vine with green leaves and a texture similar to okra.

“Actually I wouldn’t give it to a friend,” Sweeney said with a guilty laugh. “It’s so difficult to cook. You have to like the texture, which is quite slimy. The best thing to do with it is make a spinach soup, just by cooking it and pureeing it.”

In fact, Sweeney finds that making soup is one of the best ways to make veggies into a tasty starter or main dish. In summer, it’s the likes of gazpacho or cool cucumber dill (see recipe). In fall and winter, it could be pumpkin ginger, minestrone with squash or kohlrabi cream.

As for that other slimy beast, okra, Sweeney likes to do what Southerners have been doing for generations: cover them in a simple breading and fry them to an airy crunch.

Other favorite vegetables:

● Yukon gold potatoes, which he recommends using for gratins or a hearty potato salad.

● Broccoli rabe, which he blanches, sautés in brown butter and sprinkles with a bit of balsamic vinegar.

● And beets, a Dynamic Dish staple.

“Some people don’t know what to do with beets,” Sweeney said. “Bake them whole in foil at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 to two hours and you have a wonderful roasted beet you can do anything with, including pickle or use in a soup or salad.”

Dynamic Dish, 427 Edgewood Ave., 404-688-4344, www.dynamicdish.net

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Community supported agriculture

Georgia Organics, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable and locally grown food, defines community supported agriculture as “a farmer-to-consumer program in which a consumer will buy a ‘share’ from a farmer for a specified period and in exchange will receive a box of produce on a weekly basis for that period of time.”

According to figures compiled by Georgia Organics, there were 2,874 CSA “shareholders” in Georgia in 2008. That seems like a small number, until you consider that it’s up from 1,400 in 2007 — more than double in one year. And subscribers have grown again in 2009.

Suzanne Welander coordinates Mellow Bellies cooperative in Grant Park, where more than 100 farm boxes are picked up every week from mid-May until the end of December.

“It’s a crazy number now,” Welander said. “This is my sixth year, and every year it’s been increasing like that.”

Georgia Organics Local Food Guide is the best source for finding farms, markets and CSAs in Georgia: www.georgiaorganics.org.