RECIPE: Ras El Hanout Spiced Zucchini With Saffron Aioli, Preserved Lemon, Crispy Squash Blossom, and Dill

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Editor’s note: This recipe is adapted from Around the Table: Recipes & Stories From The Lark in Santa Barbara. The Lark, in the revitalized Funk Zone, is the brainchild of entrepreneur and restaurateur Sherry Villanueva.

Around the Table cookbook
Around the Table cookbook from The Lark in Santa Barbara. – Courtesy of Acme Hospitality
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Ras El Hanout Spiced Zucchini With Saffron Aioli, Preserved Lemon, Crispy Squash Blossom, and Dill

RECIPE: Ras El Hanout Spiced Zucchini With Saffron Aioli, Preserved Lemon, Crispy Squash Blossom, and Dill


  • Author: Jason Paluska
  • Yield: Serves 4

Description

This dish is a result of our friendship with Ellwood Canyon Farms. When Jack Motter calls to tell us it is officially summertime, we listen. I write my menu based on the exceptional fruits and vegetables he brings. The Ras El Hanout spice blend is very floral and bold. I love the combination of saffron, dill, and the crispy squash blossom. All these flavors and textures complement each other in perfect harmony.


Ingredients

Scale

Preserved Lemon:

  • 6 lemons
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar

Ras El Hanout Spice:

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 pod star anise
  • 1½ teaspoon whole clove
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 4 teaspoons cardamom pod

Saffron Aioli:

  • 8 threads saffron
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoons turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups grapeseed oil

Squash Blossoms:

  • Approximately 2 cups canola oil
  • 1 small egg, cold, beaten
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ⅓ cup neutral-flavored beer
  • 2 teaspoons Ras El Hanout
  • 4 squash blossoms, patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Spiced Zucchini:

  • 1 each yellow and green zucchini, oblique cut
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Preserved Lemon, diced
  • 2 tablespoon Ras El Hanout Spice
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt to taste

Shaved Raw Zucchini:

  • ½ zucchini, shaved thinly
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Garnish:

  • Fresh dill 

Instructions

  1. Preserved Lemon: Cut lemons into quarters and coat evenly with the salt and sugar. Pack into a preserving jar or nonreactive bowl, then seal the jar with the lid or cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature — they will be ready for use in 4 weeks. Once ready, remove 8 lemon quarters and separate rind. Wash the rind, pat dry, and dice finely.
  2. Ras El Hanout Spice: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Toast all spices on a parchment-lined sheet tray for 8 to 10 minutes, then cool. Put into a blender and blend until ground evenly.
  3. Saffron Aioli: Combine saffron and wine and bring to boil, remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes, then cool. Blend the lemon juice, garlic, egg yolks, mustard, turmeric, and salt in a blender. Add the wine/saffron mixture, scraping up the threads with a rubber spatula. Slowly add oil in a thin, steady stream, with the blender on low, just until the aioli is thick and emulsified.
  4. Squash Blossoms: Heat oil in a deep fryer or to ½-inch deep in a heavy skillet to 375°F. Mix together egg, flour, beer, and Ras El Hanout, then use to batter squash blossoms. Fry them until crispy, rotating evenly. Drain on paper towels, and season with salt.
  5. Spiced Zucchini: Sauté zucchini in a hot pan evenly coated with olive oil until caramelized. Fold in Preserved Lemon and Ras El Hanout Spice, then season with lemon juice and salt to taste.
  6. Shaved Raw Zucchini: Coat shaved zucchini evenly with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
  7. Plating: Sauce the plate with Saffron Aioli, and add Spiced Zucchini. Garnish with Shaved Raw Zucchini, crispy Squash Blossoms and dill.

Notes

  • The recipe for aioli is scaled down as far as practical and you will have some left over to use later.
  • Wine Pairing: Margerum Riviera Rosé, Storm Santa Ynez Valley Demetria Vineyard Grenache Rosé, or Martian Ranch & Vineyard Gamay Noir, Santa Barbara County
  • Alternative Pairing: Smoke Mountain Brewery Citrus Medley White Ale


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Jason Paluska
Jason Paluska
Executive Chef Jason Paluska oversees three dynamic kitchens that serve five distinctive and award-winning concepts within Acme Hospitality – The Lark, Lucky Penny, Helena Avenue Bakery, Pearl Social and Santa Barbara Collective. Originally from Tomball, Texas, Jason began his cooking career in 2006 under chefs Mitch and Steve Rosenthal of Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor & Hope in San Francisco. Jason then worked as a sous chef under renowned chef Jason Berthold at Michael Mina’s RN74. In 2013, he was the opening executive chef of The Lark in Santa Barbara, where he and his team were honored with a Michelin Plate Award in 2019 among numerous other prestigious recognitions. Jason’s tenure with Acme Hospitality spans more than a decade, contributing to the company’s success and elevating the culinary experiences across its diverse portfolio. Jason’s journey in the hospitality industry showcases his unwavering passion, exceptional talent, and dedication to the culinary arts.
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