Articles / Bow Down: It's Dessert Queen Abi Balingit

Bow Down: It's Dessert Queen Abi Balingit

Published July 19, 2023

Plus: How we should be thinking about food waste, on-the-spot vegan pancakes, and one of my favorite Marcella Hazan recipes

This Week’s Marksisms

Food with Mark Bittman: Abi Balingit

When I got Abi Balingit’s first cookbook, Mayumu, in the mail, I was blown away by how beautiful and cool it is. It’s filled with Filipino-inspired desserts, not “traditional” Filipino or American — Abi lives in Brooklyn, and was raised in the Bay Area and the Central Valley of California — but Abi’s own wonderful melding of the two. Like: sapin-sapin, a tri-layered rice cake that typically features tropical flavors but Abi’s version is inspired by Good Humor strawberry shortcake bars, with toasted coconut curds and freeze-dried strawberries.

Abi started her blog, The Dusky Kitchen, in 2020, and shortly after was offered a book deal; it happened very fast, to the point where she wasn’t even sure she could come up with enough recipes for a book. Turned out she’s friendly with Holly, and Holly is also obsessed with Abi’s baking, and so the three of us decided to chat. These two have wonderful energy, and their adoration for each other is clear — we had a great time.

The recipe featured on today’s episode, Abi’s Fiesta Fruit Salad, can be found here.

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What Is Food Waste, Anyway?

We are working on a piece we’re calling “A More Enlightened View of Food Waste” – you’ll see it soon. It’s led me to re-consider everything from idling my car for five minutes to these potato peels in my sink:

Those in turn reminded me of my second editor, back in 1980, a guy named Andy, who was the boss of my weekly editor, George. George was in charge of my weekly food column (this was in New Haven, at the Advocate), but had little interest in food. In addition to assigning me non-food stories (in those days I wrote about everything from nuclear power to Gang of Four), Andy liked to gab about cooking.

In those days there was a trend to eat food in a more “natural” form. (This often translated to dishes of steamed broccoli with no seasonings on brown rice with no seasonings and a few dashes of bad soy sauce.) You mashed potatoes with the skin and you ate carrots raw without peeling them. “But suppose I like my carrots peeled?” asked Andy, while I was working on some piece about all of this. He had a point; I liked them peeled, too, because they usually taste better that way. But we felt that eating them unpeeled was the right thing to do.

I looked at my potato peels in the sink, which were destined for either the compost (an important part of farming) or the pigs (an important part of pig-raising). What they were not destined for was my mashed potatoes, and therefore, they’d certainly they’d be counted in the official food wasting numbers. Not as much as they would be if I’d let them rot, which was on the verge of happening. And suppose I’d let them rot because I felt compelled to eat the peels, and wasn’t in the mood for that? Does that make me a bad person?

It’s not that simple. In fact it’s way more complicated than even this bewildering if not-that-important scenario.

No conclusion here: I want you to be thinking about food waste, but what you really think, not the current noise that’s happening around it.

Give Us a Hand

There was a lot of feedback on two different pieces we ran last week – my little rant about climate change, and our appeal to help Liz Adler’s GoFundMe for her farm in Easthampton, MA (you can still donate — here). That, and the response to a number of things we’re doing differently these days, gives me more hope than any time in the last five or so years that The Bittman Project can not only remain viable but actually grow. As one of our subscribers said about it a couple of weeks ago, “The Bittman Project has integrity, I trust everything from the recipes to articles about regenerative agriculture, and that credibility speaks volumes — especially now that anyone can publish anything.”

That’s what we’re trying to do here: build trust, talk about food in an honest and sincere way. If you like what we’re doing, and want to see more of it, please subscribe, and please consider a paid subscription, which is what’s really greasing the wheels.

(Another) Faulty Dairy Story

Once again, our friend David Katz nails it, this time with a critique of the PURE diet study’s recommendations on dairy.

Vegan Pancakes on the Spot

The content below was originally paywalled.

I did do some cooking this week, amid all the travel and running around and partygoing. Some friends came over for breakfast and I offered pancakes, then remembered we had no milk (increasingly the case; at this point I consider its highest and best use to be in cappuccino) and two of us were doing VB6, hence no eggs. The on-the-spot recipe (using my Made In griddle): half whole grain flour (the other half all-purpose; I was in a forgiving mood); baking powder, salt, sugar in the usual proportions; a couple of tablespoons of oil; cashew yogurt (ahem: made by me; more on that in a week or two). They were really good, even without the maple syrup.

Marcella Ribs

And then I cooked an old favorite from Marcella, a dish I produced probably annually in the 90s, and one I found revolutionary at the time: spare ribs braised with garlic, sage, and white wine. It sounds dead simple (it is), and not especially creative (it’s not), but at the time, back then if you did anything with spare ribs other than “barbecue” them – which meant lathering them in what amounts to vinegary ketchup or sweet-and-sour-sauce – you were a revolutionary. These were still pretty good, but next time I’m adding tomatoes and anchovies, of which I think Marcella and Victor would approve.

Marcella Hazan’s Spareribs Pan-Roasted with Sage and White Wine, Treviso Style

Makes 4 servings

In what were one time the poor regions of northern Italy, the eastern Veneto and Friuli, satisfaction and nourishment had to be found in the least expensive cuts of meat. No one in the Veneto goes hungry any longer, but the flavor of Treviso’s ribs slowly pan-roasted with sage and white wine is as deeply gratifying now as it was then. Serve them with their pan juices, over Italian mashed potatoes or hot, soft polenta. — Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking


  • A 3-pound rack of spareribs, divided into single ribs

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into very thin slices

  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons whole dried ones, chopped

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • Salt

  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill


1. Choose a sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate all the ribs without crowding them. Put in the oil and turn on the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, put in the ribs, and turn them as they cook to brown them deeply all over.

2. Add the garlic and sage. Cook the garlic, stirring, until it becomes colored a very pale blond, then add the wine. After the wine has simmered briskly for 15 to 20 seconds, adjust heat to cook at a very slow simmer, add salt and pepper, and cover the pan, putting the lid on slightly ajar. Cook for about 40 minutes, turning the ribs occasionally, until their fleshiest part feels very tender when prodded with a fork and comes easily away from the bone. From time to time, as the liquid in the pan becomes insufficient, you will need to add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to keep the ribs from drying.

3 Transfer the ribs to a warm serving platter, using a slotted spoon or spatula. Tip the pan and spoon off about one-third of the liquefied pork fat. Leave more fat than you usually would when degreasing a pan because you need it to season the recommended accompanying mashed potatoes or polenta. Add 1/2 cup water, turn up the heat to high, and while the water boils away, use a wooden spoon to scrape loose cooking residues from the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the resulting dark, dense juices over the ribs and serve at once.

— Recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Spareribs Pan Roasted With Sage And White Wine, Treviso Style
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