We all could use a little dinner inspiration — even Ali Slagle, who dreams of dinner. In “Dinner Is Served,” she asks colleagues about one night when they somehow transformed ingredients into dinner with all this life going on.
This month’s installment: Tabitha Brown, the TikTok star, author, and actor, moves with her spirit to make vegan dinners for her family. Here’s the first thing she wanted to make after weeks of traveling.
I’ve been on the road so much that I haven’t been able to cook as much as I usually do, but last week when I was home I was so excited to make tacos. I made my pecan tacos and used the leftover pecan meat the next day to make spaghetti.
A lot of people use walnuts as a meat substitute, but I can’t do the walnuts — they were making my face itch and my throat scratchy — so I was like, I should be able to do the same thing with pecans. I always say just to trust yourself in the kitchen and have fun. Lean more into the things that you like and play with those ingredients and then just kind of back away from the things you don’t like. That way you know you’re going to create something that you enjoy eating. One step at a time. It’s okay. But I do have a cookbook if they want to use one. But there’s still no measurements. It’s just helping you guide yourself from your spirit to cook.
For the pecan tacos, I boil raw pecans with a bit of garlic and a little pinch of sea salt to get them seasoned. For raw tacos, you can soak the pecans for 30 minutes or so just in warm water, but honey, I boil them for a good 10 to 12 minutes just so they get really, really soft so you don’t have crunchy tacos when they’re cooked.
Then I drain them and blend them up with mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions. That’s your meat that’s perfect for your tacos. Cook that mixture in a skillet with [my seasoning mix] Taco Business and some oil. Let it cook just like whatever meat or meat substitute you would use. The great thing about it is it’s not a meat or a meat alternative and it’s pretty much already done, so you’re just cooking it for texture. It browns really nicely and it’s so flavorful; it’s a really great meat substitute. Most people who try it don’t even know the difference. It’s one of my family’s favorite things to eat and that’s all because of my Taco Business.
You have all these veggies already in your meat substitute, but I like to layer [the taco with more vegetables]. This time, we used sliced purple cabbage with carrots and then I had a kale slaw that I mixed in too. Plus a little bit of mango de gallo which has mango with a little bit of jalapeno, onion, red bell pepper, Roma tomato, and some lime juice on top. Honey, it’s so good. And avocado, of course, or you can use guac if you want but I just do fresh slices of avocado and it’s so good.
[For the pecan spaghetti] you can use the same meat that you made out of the pecans and then you add your spaghetti sauce. I literally just add it, garlic, basil, and tomato paste and create my sauce. I actually used a jarred sauce this time but you can also make it from scratch. Sometimes I put the tomatoes in the air fryer with some garlic and onion and basil and a little bit of parsley. Once you have that heated up in the air fryer you blend it and it makes a perfect sauce. It’s so easy.
And then I had some chickpea noodles that I was using that are gluten free and I put it on top and honey, we have spaghetti.
Ali Slagle is a recipe developer, stylist, and — most important of all — home cook. She’s a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, and her cookbook is called I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes.
Daniela Jordan-Villaveces is a creative director and illustrator. She was born in Bogotá and raised between Colombia, the Netherlands, and the U.S. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles with her husband, their son, Lou, two kittens, and a pup.