Our life in food for the month of May can be pretty much summed up as: Salads. Grilled things. Mexican food. (Best read in the voice of fake Dwight, obviously.) It’s pretty much a given that a meal that combining all three of those categories is a triple threat and a sure success in our book. I was a little unsure of how this particular combination of flavors, particularly the oranges, would work together but now that I’ve tried it, I must admit it is pretty much perfect. The toasted pepitas, sweet citrus, creamy avocado and mildly tangy cotija (my own addition, because cotija belongs on everything!) work so very well in this awesome salad.

Though it might look fancy or involved, it is actually pretty simple. You make a quick marinade for the chicken and while that is doing its thing, prep the dressing and get the grill fired up. The chicken and avocados get grilled, everything is thrown together onto a platter and you’ve got a fantastic light summer meal. Can’t wait to make this again and again!

  • Yield about 4 servings


  • ½ cup tequila
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes), divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 (6 to 8 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 ripe but firm avocados, halved and pitted
  • 6 oz. (about 6 cups) watercress, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pepitas, toasted
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 oz. crumbled cotija


  • 01

    To make the marinade, combine the tequila, water, 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, the garlic and 2 teaspoons of the salt together in a bowl. Whisk to blend. Transfer ½ cup of the marinade to a small saucepan. Add the chicken to the bowl with the remaining marinade, toss to coat, cover and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.

  • 02

    To prepare a charcoal grill, open the bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the top coals are partially covered with ash, pour two-thirds evenly over half of the grill, then pour the remaining coals over the other half of the grill. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

    To prepare a gas grill, turn all burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn other burners to medium.

  • 03

    Place the orange pieces in a colander set over a bowl to reserve the excess juice. In a large bowl, combine ¼ cup of the olive oil, honey, cayenne, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the remaining 3 tablespoons of lime juice. Whisk together; set aside.

  • 04

    Before grilling, brush the avocado halves with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the chicken from the marinade and transfer to a plate. Clean and oil the cooking grate of the grill. Place the chicken on the hotter side of the grill. Cook (covered, if using gas), turning as needed, until the chicken is charred and registers 160˚ F on an instant read thermometer (about 8-12 minutes). Meanwhile, place the avocados on the cooler side of the grill and cook until lightly charred, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the finished chicken and avocados to a cutting board and tent with foil.

  • 05

    Add the drained orange juice to the saucepan with the reserved marinade. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to ¼ cup, 3-5 minutes. Whisk the dressing in the large bowl to recombine, then add in the watercress, pipettes, shallots and drained oranges. Toss gently to coat. Transfer to a serving platter. Peel the grilled avocado and slice thin. Slice the chicken into ½-inch thick pieces. Lay the chicken and avocado pieces on top of the salad. Drizzle with the reduced marinade and top with cotija. Serve immediately.