In the month of March, I remember the man (is this an Ode to Boy?) who mesmorizes my mind with his mastery of the music he penned, I’d like to believe, by the light of the moon. Millions around the world and through the centuries, no doubt, also love the “Sonata quasi una fantasia” aka “Moonlight Sonata.”
March 26th marks the passing of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1827 in the glorious city of Vienna, Austria. I felt moved to create a culinary quasi-masterpiece in his memory, which I have aptly named my Moonlight Frittata.
My inspiration for tonight’s dinner includes traditional German and Austrian ingredients like sausage, quark, mustard, chives, and asparagus. White asparagus, in particular, is the prized form of this spring and summer vegetable. It is the same as the green variety most of us know, however the growing conditions are altered and closely monitored to keep the specks of green from taking over the stalks.
I remember my first exposure to white asparagus when I was 16 years old on a European tour with my high school. One of the first restaurants we went to in Salzburg, Austria served a silky, decadent soup that we thought at first was a puree of potatoes. What a surprise to find out it was white asparagus! I could have easily made an entire dinner of that soup along with my first samplings of wine.
For my recipe tonight, you’ll notice in the picture a little creative license has been taken with the use of green asparagus that I shaved to achieve more of a white look. The real-deal white asparagus isn’t available in my grocery store yet this season, though I eagerly await its arrival! Also pictured for the recipe are eggs, Käsekrainer sausage from Olympia Provisions, Quark from Vermont Creamery, a German-style mustard, dried chives, and garlic.
Frittatas are super-easy to make and are a versatile recipe that you can make with a wide variety of ingredients. Think of it as a quiche without the crust. For those who like breakfast for dinner, a frittata is the way to go!
So just how the heck do you make a frittata?
Set a 10” skillet on your stovetop on medium heat with a generous splash of oil or butter. This helps loosen your frittata easily when it’s time to unmold from the skillet.
In a medium-sized bowl, I whisked the yolks and whites of 8 eggs. Then I whisked in the quark cheese to incorporate into the eggs and enhance the creaminess. Whisk in the mustard, chives (dried or fresh), and minced garlic. You can use other herbs like parsley, marjoram, or lovage as those are also common in German and Austrian cuisine and have a relatively mild flavor.
Cut your sausage links and asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Sauté in the skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the asparagus softens.
Pour your egg blend into the skillet and turn the heat down to medium-low. Gently cook your frittata in an adagio sostenuto manner for approximately 10-12 minutes, loosening around the sides of the eggs to keep from sticking to the skillet. When your eggs are set fairly well on the sides and partly into the middle of the pan, remove the skillet from the stovetop and place on the top rack of your oven underneath the broiler. (Turn the broil on, of course).
Carefully monitor your frittata for even cooking and light browning of the top of the eggs under your broiler. The browning (actually, flavor-enhancing) process will occur allegretto! When the eggs are set and the center doesn’t jiggle too much, remove the skillet from the oven. Place a cutting board over your skillet (larger than your skillet diameter), and invert onto the board. If all goes well, your frittata will invert cleanly and with minimal browning on the (now) top of your eggs.
Slice the frittata like a pie into wedges and serve warm with a simple salad on the side.
Since Beethoven is buried in Vienna (this is my picture taken in 2008 in the musicians’ corner at the Zentral Friedhof), I opted to savor my Moonlight Frittata with a crisp glass of Felsner Moosburgerin Grüner Veltliner from the Kremstal DAC. This particular grüner I found refreshing with its delicate notes of apple and citrus fruits and white pepper spice for which grüners are known. It is a food-friendly wine that pairs well with vegetables, seafood, poultry, salads, and even Asian cuisine too! Like the first movement of Beethoven’s masterpiece, the coolness of the wine lulled my palate with its fantasy of flavors.
Speaking of movements, I was moved to listen to Moonlight Sonata in its entirety as part of this cooking/writing project. Most of us are familiar with the opening of the opus. However, the allegretto and presto adagio movements are mind-blowing! It’s as if the moon is being lit up with a lightning storm to accent its illumination over the world. Fierce is the only way to describe the finale.
My dinner did not have quite the same kind of passionate finale, though I still enjoyed a favorable (and flavor-able) reminder of a country I fell in love with in 1996. If I weren’t mostly Scottish, I would gladly welcome Austria for my heritage.
Thus, I will sign off with a flourishing “Prost!” to the majesty of Beethoven’s music and its powers for inspiration.