The holidays are often a mixed bag (with mixed blessings!) of gifts, both given and received. Sometimes they are funny gag gifts exchanged with a Secret Santa at work. Or maybe it’s a whole week of gift exchanging, in which you score a scarf, some sweets, a book, and gift cards. Inevitably, the gifts range from wonderful, to the pair of socks you will never wear. Gift giving can present a whole range of dilemmas. Many people are mindful about not filling up their lives with more stuff and say they don’t want anything. Or, you might find yourself sharing the holidays with someone who seems to have everything.  What could you possibly give them? Others have been unemployed for months and might be uncomfortable or unable to exchange gifts on limited funds. As we approach this holiday season, still in the throes of a pandemic and still gathering in small numbers, we once again need to savor the best of who we are, and share it with those we love.  

My fondest memories always involve a table filled with food and surrounded by friends and love, the kind of meals that take up an entire evening and involve deep discussions and laughter, leaving everyone sated in both body and soul. In so many ways, preparing a good meal for others is the very best I have to give of myself. In return, I am gifted with a chorus of delighted oohs and ahs as they taste their way through the evening and request seconds or leftovers to take home. No matter how you plan to celebrate this season, remember that a gift from your heart is the very best you have to give. Coming together to share a meal is a cherished memory that will last a lifetime.

Here’s my celebratory holiday gift this year:

Honey Basted Duck

Balsamic Lentils

Crispy Roasted Broccoli

and for dessert

Citrus Sorbet with Brown Edge Wafers


A 5 – 6 lb duck will serve 3 adults, but there won’t be any leftovers. While the recipe calls for 1 duck, if you have more than 3 guests, or want to have leftovers, it is easily doubled for 2 ducks. Personally, I always want leftovers to make a duck risotto. In anticipation of that, I save the giblets in the fridge, save the carcass after the meal, and then make duck stock the next day. And of course, save the duck fat that gets poured off to use with potatoes! Stored properly, it will keep for months in the fridge, and longer in the freezer.

The broccoli is easy to make while the duck is resting after it comes out of the oven. Just toss broccoli florets with olive oil and a little salt, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Make sure the florets are well separated and not touching, for maximum crispness. Once the duck is done, turn the oven up to 425F.  When the oven is ready, add the pan of broccoli and roast for 20 minutes.  

Pinot noir is the classic wine to pair with duck and it certainly works here. If you prefer to go French, get a Burgundy since both are made with the same grape. If you’d like to try a white wine with the duck, look for a riesling.  

After a rich meal, dessert wants to be a simple palate cleanser. A citrus sorbet is perfect. The brown edge wafers add a nice crunch and can be made a day ahead and stored in a well-sealed container.  


Honey Basted Duck

3 servings Prep Time: 30 minutes the day before Cook Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes



1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 5 – 6 lb duck

Basting sauce

¼ cup honey

1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Combine 1st 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Remove giblets from the duck cavity, snip wing tips and add to giblets to store in the fridge. Rinse duck with cold water and pat dry.
  3. Work your hands under the skin to loosen it over the breast and legs. Rub the herb mix under the skin, covering as much of the breast and legs as possible, without tearing the skin. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.  
  4. Take duck from the fridge, and preheat oven to 300F.  
  5. Score duck skin over breasts taking care not to cut the meat underneath.
  6. Place in roasting pan, breast side up and cover the pan tightly with foil. Roast for 1 hour.  
  7. While duck is roasting, combine basting sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove duck to holding platter and carefully pour off accumulated fat into a mason jar or heat proof bowl.
  9. Return duck to roasting pan, breast side down and cover again with foil. Roast for 1 hour.  
  10. Remove duck to platter and pour off fat into the jar or bowl.  
  11. Return the duck, breast side up and baste with the honey sauce. Roast for 30 minutes, uncovered, basting every 10 minutes with honey sauce.  
  12. Remove duck to the platter and tent with foil to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  13. If you’re roasting broccoli, turn the oven to 425F as soon as the duck is out.

Balsamic Lentils

3 servings Cook time:  45 minutes



1 cup green lentils

1 small shallot, peeled and halved

2 whole cloves

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 cups water

Balsamic – Mustard mix

½ cup balsamic

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon

Pinch of salt

Vegetable sauté

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

½ cup finely chopped shallot

¼ cup finely chopped carrots

Pinch of fresh ground black pepper



  1. Stud each shallot half with a whole clove. 
  2. Combine shallots, lentils, garlic, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. 
  3. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  4. Turn off heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes. 
  5. Discard shallot halves with cloves, and drain lentils.

Balsamic – Mustard mix

  1. While lentils cook, bring balsamic to a boil in a very small pan or skillet, and reduce to about 2 tablespoons (approximately 10 minutes). Keep a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn. 
  2. Turn off the heat and stir in Dijon and salt. 
  3. Leave to cool.

Vegetable sauté 

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add all ingredients and sauté for 3 minutes.  

When lentils are done, stir balsamic – mustard mix and vegetable sauté into lentils and toss well to blend.


Brown Edge Wafers

Prep time:  30 minutes Cook time:  10 minutes, plus cooling


2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (180 grams)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. 
  2. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the flour and salt, and mix well to combine. 
  4. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  5. Place cookie dough in fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake for at least 8 minutes. You want a wafer that is still pale in the center but has a brown edge.
  9. Allow wafers to cool on the pan enough to firm before moving them to a wire rack.