Behind The Curtain by Amy Lane Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew with Homemade Bread.

BehindTheCurtainDistance makes the heart grow fonder, that is certainly true, and some times, it makes the heat grow stronger too…Amy Lane has been crazy prolific this past year. I mean she’s been on FIRE. She’s written more books than I can count in the last 18 months. You’d think that’d would be a bad thing, but she just keeps writing stories that completely deliver. This one it had two sides to it.  One one side was humorous, and had lots of banter with great moments provided by the supporting characters. On the other, there was sadness and lots of longing, but nothing unbearable.  Dawnson Barnes and Jared Emory had to fight a hard long fight for their happy ending, but they did it with humor, courage and dignity, and they enjoyed their love. I think this is one of the couples I’ve enjoyed the most together that Amy has written, it had to be that their times together were short, so they seemed more precious..

This one has a lot going on here that’s for sure. A beautiful dancer, a funny geeky hero with the most lovely family, a horrific bully of an agent,  and we even get some long awaited news from another one of our favorite Amy heroes!

Dawson is a lucky guy. He won the lottery in the father and best friend lottery, he knows it too. Dawson has had his friend Benji all his life, and together they want to take the theater world by storm (the back of the house that is). He wants to be a stage manager, and Benji will be the light and sound engineer. They do pretty well in their little town in Northern California. They are almost done with the classes at the community college and then they’ll transfer to Sac State. They both get steady work as members of the guild, and they really can’t ask for much more. Life is pretty good.

The weekend that Jared Emory, star of the LA Ballet Company, comes to town to perform. Dawson sort of lands on him while checking that all is in order for the performance ,and well that pretty much “sets the stage”, for an epic heartache love story. Jared is beautiful and lonely, and Dawson he wants to wrap him up in his world, and show him that there is love in this world for him. It’s not easy though…It’s not easy.

For this one I had to make some comfort food. Jared, this boy needs someone fussing over him. A LOT OF IT, and I figured hearty stew, and homemade bread would do the trick. I made an outrageously delicious Curried Lentil Coconut Stew with homemade bread. I made a lovely loaf of Swiss Zopf which my baby sister learned to make while she was an exchange student there. I also opened up a lovely bottle of Spanish Garnache which is my perennial go-to wine. This one is a 2011 Retorno Garnacha from Terras SigilataWinery. This wine is ideal for a hearty soup or stew, and costs around $7.99 a bottle. But back to the story…

photo 4

Dawson is really at a loss with the clear interest that Jared Emory (GOD OF DANCE!!!) has shown in him. I mean Dawson is a virginal theater geek! It’s not that he doesn’t have people, or that he can’t function in society, but geez, he knows how he looks, and Jared is a GOD. He can have any man he wants, despite this fact he seems to want…Dawson? Dawson goes along with it because, HELLO who could turn down all that hotness? So, in the few days that Jared is there for his performance they get to know each other, they go on a date at Denny’s, and between food and too much caffeine Dawson realizes that Jared is a very talented, very good, extremely lonely man. He wants to change that, he wants to make Jared his. Bring him into his home and his family. His life.

BUT…Jared gave up EVERYTHING for the dance, family, love, relationships, he has only has had his dancing for so long. He is not ready to walk away, it will happen soon, but not yet. So they begin, Jared goes to LA to work, to be what he is, and when he gets a break he comes back to Dawson. To Dawson’s friends, his dad, and his little apartment full of people who care and laugh and make him feel at home.

Jared comes for a few days, and they are wonderful, then he’s away for a few weeks and they text all the time, and talk and IM and it’s manageable…For now. Things  are working until Jared comes for a visit so sick he can barely stand. The worst part is that he’s been dancing like that for days, he’s been sick for DAYS. That’s when Dawson realizes that there is too much about Jared’s life and work he doesn’t know. Too much he has no control over. Dawson needs to make Jared see that things are different now, before he had no one to save himself for, but now, now there’s Dawson.

I think Amy did a wonderful job with this story, in two ways particularly. First, she showed the world of dance unmasked. Jared had to give up everything to be the best at what he did. It cost him so much, not because of his greed or ambition, just because it is a lonely life, driven by passion and with too many costs. So much is at stake, all the time that there is hardly any time to look beyond the stage. No time to plan for the future. He had never looked past his dancing until in Dawson he found a reason to look ahead with faith.

Second, she made beautiful work of showing the hardship of long-distance relationships. The toll they take, and how even as the love deepens, they get harder and harder with time. Not just the loneliness and distance, but the lack of knowledge, the lack of control, the inability to be there for the one you love the moment they need you most. There is a lot of helplessness involved in this type of relationship, it makes for VERY HIGH highs, every moment together counts exponentially. However there is so much that is missed. So much of everyday life that you just aren’t there for.

This story could have been REALLY angsty, and it did have its moments, mostly thought it was a lovely romance. Dawson charmed my pants off, his humor and banter with Jared, and his best friend Benji were so delightful. I laughed out loud many times. As for Jared, he was not an easy one to get to know, he was stoic and aloof, he didn’t want to show the scars and the hurt, but he did eventually, and once he did there was nothing to do but cheer  for him to get a happy ending. The whole crew of characters was AWESOME. Amy always creates these great little tribes of people that come together and make these amazing little families. No one does that flawed and broken characters like Amy and here she was in her element. Love that heals and saves, ordinary people that become heroes to save those they love.

Totally recommend this one. I almost made it through without tears, but she got me in the end!

Behind The Curtain is out today from Dreamspinner press, and is available for sale here.

Swiss Zopf 

4 cups of unbleached bread flour

2 packets of active dry yeast

1 2/3 cups of lukewarm milk ( I used almond)

1 Tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

7 Tablespoons of Earth Balance Buttery Spread melted (or real butter)

1 egg yolk diluted in a little bit of water

Directions:

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl.  Separately in a smaller bowl put yeast, salt and sugar, add 2/3 cup of milk to the mix and dissolve. Add that mix to the flour and finally the rest of the milk and melted butter. In the Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook on speed two knead the dough for two minutes.

Dough should look like this after kneading for about two minutes.

Dough should look like this after kneading for about two minutes.

Once dough is uniformly in a ball, put in a mixed bowl, cover tightly and let rise for one hour in a warm place. Once the dough has risen, braid the dough and place on a greased cookie sheet, instructions here, and let rise for another 30 minutes. Once the dough has rested, brush the top with the yolk generously and bake for 25 minutes.

The video helps to get the braiding right.

The video helps to get the braiding right.

YUM!

YUM!

The bread should have a golden crust and buttery inside.

Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew

2 stalks of celery chopped

1 small onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 cup of mushrooms chopped (I used Baby Bellas)

1/2 cup of carrots chopped

2 small redskin potatoes chopped

1 Tablespoon of fresh cilantro chopped

1 1/2 cup of lentils

2 1/2 tablespoons of Sweet Curry Powder (I used Penzeys)

1/4 teaspoon of marjoram

1/4 teaspoon of coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon of thyme

a pinch of cinnamon

a pinch of cayenne pepper

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 14.5 oz can of coconut milk

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used the Roasted Garlic kind)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Ahead of time soak the lentils in water for about an hour. Drain the lentils to add to the pot. In a large pot sautee  all the vegetables, onions and garlic in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for about three minutes minutes stirring frequently, don’t add cilantro. Add all the spices and keep mixing for two more minutes. If they get too dry add a little bit of water. Add lentils and cook for another five minutes, continue stirring.  Lower heat and cover for 10 more minutes.

photo 2

Once the spices, vegetables and lentils have cooked together add the broth, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, cilantro. Mix and season with salt and pepper. Put the stew on low simmer for an hour, mixing regularly to make sure that it does not stick.

Once the stew is done serve with avocados, white rice and/or fresh bread.

I hope you enjoy this lovely story and the food that goes with it. Stay warm everyone!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

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