RECIPES: Atlanta chef shares special uses for spring vegetables



For Joey Ward, spring in Atlanta is a special time.

The executive chef and co-owner of Southern Belle and Georgia Boy says that the first dish he can remember creating was a green garlic and carrot top dressing for a melange of lettuces and vegetables he calls the Spring in the ATL Salad.

“That truly began to define my culinary voice,” he noted. “There is no dish that I can think of that hits so on the mark of Atlanta in the spring. We make the salad our own with a creamy dressing that covers everything.”

Using the offerings from local farms, the salad changes hyper-seasonally, and features whatever growing goodies are available from week to week.

“The pungent and lightly sweet pickled green garlic used to make the dressing helps to carry the flavors of carrot tops, or any other vegetable trims that you may want to blend into the mix to reduce waste,” Ward said.

Which bring us to the idea of whole vegetable cooking, which attempts to curb waste by using everything from the roots to the stems.

Pão de queijo is a Brazilian cheese bread that is traditionally served as a snack or for breakfast. Ward makes it with one of Georgia’s most treasured exports — early Vidalia onions.

“I love the chewiness brought by the tapioca flour used in the recipe,” he said. “We make it our own by adding Georgia Gouda and spring Vidalia bulbs, as well as serving it with a chimichurri made of the spring Vidalia greens.”



Another spring specialty is a strawberry and almond gazpacho, blended, then drizzled with Georgia Olive Farms olive oil.

“This is a fresh take on a classic Spanish gazpacho,” Ward said. “We replace the tomatoes with underripe strawberries and leave the greens of the strawberries intact to add a vegetal note as well as reduce waste. We serve ours with pickled shrimp crostini for a nice savory balance to the light sweetness of the chilled soup.”

Ward appreciates the momentum that comes with the new season.

“I feel like spring is like the firing gun for the start of a race,” Ward says. “You’ve been waiting and anticipating, and then, all of the sudden, you have something besides root vegetables.

“What’s really great about Georgia’s growing seasons is that once it starts going, it’s like a waterfall. It just comes at you. We try to celebrate as many things as we can as they’re coming in, and we preserve them and keep them.”

Ward enjoys building a menu around what comes with spring.

“We try to do dishes that celebrate individual ingredients, like the Vidalia onions in the pão de queijo and the chimichurri. And then we do dishes that celebrate as many vegetables as we can, like the Spring in the ATL Salad.”

In addition to Little Gem lettuce, the mix of vegetables included Yellow Moon and Thumbelina carrots, charred romanesco broccoli, roasted red and gold beets, shaved fennel and radishes. But as Ward noted, that’s going to change every week, as spring moves on into early summer.

“Basically, it’s a cross section of here and now, and time and place, and season,” he said.


These recipes from Joey Ward, the executive chef and co-owner of Atlanta restaurants Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, celebrate the wonders of spring and the goodness of whole vegetable cooking.



Green Garlic and Carrot Top Dressing

Utilizing beautiful and constantly evolving local spring produce, chef Joey Ward’s Spring in the ATL Salad is an adaptation of Michel Bras’ famous Le Gargouillou salad. Ward makes it his own with creamy green garlic dressing, and uses it to dress his Spring in the ATL Salad, which features greens and vegetables of the season.



Spring Vidalia Pão de Queijo

Pão de queijo is a Brazilian cheese bread traditionally served as a snack or for breakfast. Made with tapioca flour, it’s both delightfully chewy, and gluten-free.

Spring Vidalia Greens Chimichurri

This chimichurri is made with spring Vidalia greens, which are the green tops of Vidalia onions, and have a pleasantly mild flavor. Look for them at farm stands or farmers markets. Serve with grilled meats, seafood, vegetables or pão de queijo.



Strawberry and Almond Gazpacho With Georgia Olive Farms Olive Oil

This is a fresh take on a classic Spanish gazpacho, replacing the tomatoes with underripe strawberries. Ward likes serving it with pickled shrimp crostini.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.