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La Vera Caponata

4 pounds firm and shiny-skinned eggplant, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt for water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional as needed
2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon freshly ground fine sea salt
1 cup red wine
2 cups finely chopped hearts of celery
Juice of 2 oranges, preferably blood oranges
Zest of 2 oranges
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
Freshly cracked pepper
4 ounces blanched almonds, roasted and chopped
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
2/3 cup dark raisins, plumped in warm red wine vinegar and drained
6 ounces green Sicilian olives, stones removed, coarsely chopped
4 whole lobsters, split
16 prawns, shelled, deveined, heads removed, tails left intact


Soak the eggplant in sea-salted water for 1 hour, then drain, rinse, and dry it on absorbent paper towels. Over a lively flame, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil in a large saute pan and brown the eggplant well, cooking only those pieces at a time that will fit without touching. As the eggplant is sauteed, remove it to paper towels. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil and, in the same saute pan, lightly brown the onions, softening them for 2 or 3 minutes before adding the tomatoes, the fine sea salt, and wine. Braise the tomatoes and onions in the wine, stirring, until much of the liquids are absorbed and the mixture has thickened a bit. Set the sauce aside. Poach the chopped celery in sea-salted water, just enough to cover it, for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, save the seafood. Add the spiced mixture to the slightly cooled sauce and stir very well. Permit the sauce to cool fully. Finally, stir in the eggplant, the celery, the plumped raisins, and the olives. Cover the caponata and permit it an overnight rest in the refrigerator. Warm to room temperature before serving. Wood-roast the lobster and/or prawns, basting them lightly with olive oil, presenting them, sizzling, atop the room-temperature caponata.

Source: www.epicurious.com