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'Mater Matters

'Mater Matters
June 2013
FIG’s Jason Stanhope shares fresh recipes for the season’s favorite fruit

Come June, we get the tomatoes that we’ve been craving since the final bite of last fall’s crop. “I’ve come to appreciate the nuances of all tomatoes,” says FIG chef de cuisine Jason Stanhope. “They all have lovable qualities and are very sensitive to the curve balls Mother Nature brings. But different types of tomatoes have very specific functions in our kitchen. They can play a supporting role or be the star of the show.” He calls romas and vine ripes “workhorse tomatoes,” as they welcome many cooking techniques. As for heirlooms, “they’re unpredictable and delicate,” he notes. “I prefer not to cook them, so I can show off their range of textures balance of sweetness, and acidity, and their brilliant colors.”

Stanhope features his heirlooms in the tomato vierge, making them into a straightforward, room-temperature sauce that is a perfect foil for the warm, meaty grouper. He gives them star billing in his chilled heirloom tomato and watermelon terrine, which he describes as “elegant and classic.” Then he puts his vine ripes to the heat, roasting them with olive oil, garlic, and herbs to top his grilled piadina.

While FIG’s tomatoes come from North Carolina’s Blackbird Farm and Wadmalaw Island’s Ambrose Family Farm, you can fill your basket with locals at any of the weekly farmers markets. Straight off the vine and still warm to the touch, all of the varieties pack a flavor punch. “It’s hard to pick a favorite,” says Stanhope. “But one of the best things in the world is a simple tomato sandwich with lots of Duke’s mayo, sea salt, and black pepper. For this, I love a perfectly ripe Brandywine.”

The Scoop: Dishing It Up with Chef Jason Stanhope
RESTAURANT: FIG chef de cuisine
ACCOLADES: Epicurious named FIG one of Charleston’s Top Restaurants
FIRST F&B GIG: Lunch courier and baker for Specialties in San Francisco’s financial district
EDUCATION: California Culinary Academy
FAVORITE Local INGREDIENTS: “The perfection of a Sea Island egg from Celeste Albers is hard to beat. It can be the backbone to a great recipe and center-of-the-plate-worthy.”
Recipe He’ll take to the grave: “The one recipe that is a rite of passage at FIG is the chicken liver pâté. That’s one we don’t share.”