Frittura mista | free·too·rah mee·stah | noun; Italian assorted fried platter, similar to the Japanese tempura. A mixture of vegetables, herbs, meat, cheese and fish are dipped in a light batter and quickly deep fried to prevent the saturation of grease into the food.
In my frittura mista platter–along with crisp morsels of ribbony mozzarella in carrozza, tasty calamari and shrimp fritters, feather-light fried zucchini blossoms, tiny chicken nuggets, a handful of sweet potato French fries, and golden fried artichoke hearts–I always include a batch of deep-fried sage leaves.
The key element in proper frying is the batter. It must be very cold and fluffy, while on the other hand, the frying oil should be very hot. Quantity is also important, don't spare on the oil, glug glug away. The more the better.
1 cup large sage leaves
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 egg white
1 glass of pale ale, chilled
1 glass of chilled sparkling water (I use Perrier or San Pellegrino)
Oil for frying
1 teaspoon baking soda
Wash the leaves under cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel.
In a mixing bowl, blend a glass of chilled sparkling water, flour and salt until fluffy and pour in a dash of beer or a pinch of baking soda for further lightness. Some use a wire whip to mix, I like to do this with my hands, because I get a better feel of the texture, undoing lumps and understanding if more liquid is needed. It should be quite runny, not thick. Don't over-blend, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet, frying pan or wok. Ideally the correct frying temperature should never be below 180° C (350° F). If you don't have a cooking thermometer, the best way to tell of the oil is hot enough, is checking to see if the heat has made it less syrupy. It should rather more on the liquid side. Gently swirl the pan and see: if circle ripples form, the oil is ready for frying.
When the 30 minutes are up, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt, until stiff peaks form. Delicately incorporate this to the batter with a wooden spoon always turning in the same direction.
Dip the leaves a few at a time in the chilled batter and deep fry in plenty scalding olive oil in small batches. Pick them up with a pair of tongs and briefly park them on paper towel before serving hot.