Archive for April, 2009

Let's Face It, Everything's Better Fried: A Q&A with Riccardo from Fritti

funghi_fritti1. When did you begin your culinary career?

I was born in Milan, so food and cooking have always been a large part of my life. When I graduated from college I went into the restaurant business with a friend of mine as the founding chef and partner at Pasta da Pulcinella, a casual fast food pasta concept. Today, I have four restaurants in the Atlanta area: Fritti (Italian pizzeria), Sotto Sotto (authentic Italian trattoria), Cuerno (Spanish tapas) and Beleza (healthy tropical small plates).

2. With a restaurant named Fritti, when did you start experimenting with frying techniques?

Frying is a basic cooking technique which every culture incorporates into their cuisine, some more than others. Good fried food really comes down to two things: batter and oil temperature – and that’s it. Once you’ve got those two things down, you’ve got the perfect fried item, but those two things can be pretty complicated to get right sometimes.

As you can imagine, I played around with various batters, but have found the sweet spot with my recipe for the Funghi Fritti. I coat a mixture of white button, crimini, portabella and shiitake mushrooms with a rice flour batter that combines the properties of a traditional Italian pastella with a Japanese tempura. Although we serve a variety of fried appetizers… fried Robiola goat cheese, fried calamari, fried pizzas, fried rice balls [arancini], the Funghi Fritti is by far our most popular appetizer.

3. What role do mushrooms play on your menu?

Mushrooms are a very important ingredient within Italian cuisine and can be part of almost any dish. But for me, I prefer to feature mushrooms as the center piece of a dish.

4. What is your favorite mushroom dish?

The Risotto al Funghi at one of my other restaurants, Sotto Sotto. It has carnaroli rice, a variety of exotic mushrooms and Reggiano cheese. Simple but delicious!

Chef Riccardo’s Funghi Fritti

  • 12 pounds assorted mushrooms (such as white, crimini, portobello, shiitake)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 6 cups rice flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • Truffle oil, as needed
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste


  1. Stem and cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, add the water and wine, then slowly whisk in the rice flour until the batter is the consistency of a thick gravy.
  3. Add the rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the mushrooms and toss until the mushrooms are lightly and evenly coated.
  5. For each serving to order: Fry 8 ounces of the mushrooms at 350 degrees F, using a metal spoon to keep them from clumping, 3 to 4 minutes, or until the batter is crisp.
  6. Drain the mushrooms on a paper towel, then drizzle very lightly with truffle oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

ROW: Life's Ambrosia Presents a Grilled 3-Cheese Sandwich with Sauteed Mushrooms

Photo Credit: Life's AmbrosiaI’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but we are nearing the end of April. Okay…you probably got that far on your own but did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month?

Now just because we spend the majority of our time with mushrooms on the mind doesn’t mean we don’t have other favorites in the food chain and grilled cheese definitely makes the list.  While the traditional grilled cheese sandwich is just cheese, butter and bread, we give the highest Mushroom Recipe of the Week commendation to Life’s Ambrosia who has give us a beautiful way to have our grilled cheese and eat it too- with mushrooms!

Kath Eats Real Food Presents Brain Food: Mushroom + Butternut Squash Risotto

Hello again to my favorite fungi friends- it’s Kath from Kath Eats Real Food! Many of us are busy studying for finals this time of year and have little time to think about cooking. butternut-shroom-risottoBut you’d be surprised how much a gourmet meal will ease your stress and make you feel like life is normal again. Take just 30 minutes to put this mushroom risotto together, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to return to the books (and a little wine on the side might help too!)

Mushrooms… butter….wine. Sounds decadent, right? But this recipe still clocks in under 500 calories, includes a plethora of delicious vegetables, and is out-of-this-world flavorful.

It’s very flexible too – use any kind of mushrooms you like (cremini are my favorite), swap out the spinach for any greens you have on hand and use sweet potato instead of squash if you like.

And if you don’t have risotto rice, just use oats! Be sure to use a quality vegetable or chicken stock for maximum flavor in the risotto and mushrooms.

Here’s a link to the inspiration recipe from Cooking Light.

  • 8 oz butternut squash, cubed and baked until tender at 400*
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats (*Note* I think this actually would have been better with real arborio rice instead of the oats because the rice has more volume and heft)
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1.5 cups (appx.) vegetable broth
  • 10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp real butter
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Handful baby spinach, chopped

For my version, I baked half a large butternut squash for 40 minutes until tender in a little S+ P (I also microwaved it to give it a head start).

For the “risotto” I sauteed garlic and 1/2 a cup of steel cut oats for a few minutes and then added 1/3 a cup of wine, followed by who knows how much broth, 1/4-1/3 a cup or so at a time. I’m guessing I used about 1.5 cups of broth? I just kept adding it every time the oats dried out on the bottom of the pan until it was time to serve the veggies.

In a skillet, I sauteed the mushrooms in 1/2 a tbsp of real butter (one of the few times I think it’s really worth it because you can TASTE the butter!). Then I added the squash and spinach when the shrooms were done.

When the risotto was done, I stirred in another 1/2 tbsp real butter, 2 tsp sage and 2 tbsp parmesan.

Then I poured the risotto into bowls, topped with veggies, and sprinkled another tbsp parmesan in each bowl.

A delicious dish that proves getting to the bottom of the bowl can bring the best out in your brain!

Plate Pics: Mushroom Bruschetta at La Madia

While my colleagues de Mushroom and I are scattered from coast to coast, I’ve noticed that each of us have a profound pride in our cities’ dining scenes (bordering on competitive)- from San Francisco to the Second City and from Portland to Pennsylvania we trade fabled meals from local chefs like baseball fans share stolen bases.  Our memories of these meals seem to grow more vivid in time. In fact, my guess is that most people can still name the first time a restaurant awed them, when the last bite was a bit bittersweet (Pumpkin Soup at Pygma-Lion; Amsterdam circa 1996 for me).

I mention this because I’m one of the many many proud Chicagoans constantly seeking and finding fantastic new and new-to-me restaurants. And given that I’ve now come to relate the Internet with my more enjoyable eating experiences (thank you blogging, Yelp, LTHForum, Twitter, etc), I’m often compelled to share them….through stealthy photography.

No flash, no second takes and done in under 5 seconds… these are the rules I have set for myself when I feel compelled to capture a meal on memory card.  I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to draw attention, I just want to have proof. I want to tell people about this wonderful meal and have the visuals to support it.  Last night was an excellent example.plate_pic_lamadia It’s been a busy week so my friend Molly and her boyfriend Jai asked if I would be up for a small bite and a glass of wine.  Why yes, I thought, I could be lured into that quite easily! So off we went to La Madia– a young, contemporary Italian spot in Chicago’s River North.

As soon as I saw the mushroom bruschetta listed, I set my menu aside. It was Jai’s pick as well so for a tense second or so we considered ordering two rather than sharing but, alas, an incoming swimsuit season got the better of our appetites.

The place was busy. We had our wine and then it arrived.  The bruschetta was plated approachably and the taste was familiar but fresh.  Sauteed mushrooms with fresh herbs served on Italian bread that’d be given a thin layer of goat cheese .  Straightforward and satisfying- I expected as much when it arrived because the all-too-familiar urge came over me and out came the camera.

I was done so quickly that my table-mates didn’t even realize they were being photographed. It may not be the perfect picture but it’s picture perfect when it comes to encompassing the things I love about restaurants- great food and great company.

*If YOU have a “Plate Pic” of a mushroom dish at a favorite restaurant (and can snag it under the radar!), email it to  I’d like to highlight some of your neighborhood favorites over the next few weeks!

ROW: Marinated Balsamic Mushrooms with Shallots from Kitchen Experiments

Photo Credit: Kitchen ExperimentsLooking back at a few of our past recipes, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on beautiful meals that can be made within weekday/workday time constraints and this week’s recipe of the week from Kitchen Experiments is no different.

A few weeks ago we showed you how simply sauteeing a couple pounds of mushrooms at the beginning of the week could plus up your meals for days.  While I stand by this approach, Elaine from Kitchen Experiments just showed me how to up my game in that department and it sounded way too good not to share it with you!

Mushrooms sauteed with balsamic vinegar and shallots until they get to the rich, caramel color you see above.  I’m picturing these beauties on burgers, with linguine, folded into wontons…I could go on but I’m nowhere near lunch and starting to get hungry!