“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I was thinking of that famous philosophical quote yesterday while making this Chicken, Orange, and Avocado Salad for family dinner. It’s a household favorite that I published here a few years ago. Yet it seems to have gone under the radar. In other words, it hasn’t made much of a sound.

So this is me … making noise. About this salad. And how good it is. And how it is exactly what you need at your dinner table right now. The goodies of spring have yet to arrive in farmers’ markets, and most of us have had enough of the stews and chilis we were so jazzed about back in November.

This is a bright spot in the winter cooking landscape. It starts with a marinade that doubles as a salad dressing.  Endive, a mildly bitter, crunchy vegetable in the chicory family, adds a little crunch and punch to the lettuce mix. The greens are balanced by the sweetness of the oranges and a touch of honey in the dressing. The presence of healthy fats — olive oil, avocado, and pumpkin seeds — along with the chicken make the salad substantial enough to qualify as dinner.

It’s plainly tasty. It’s worth making noise about.

Is anybody listening?

Chicken, Orange, and Avocado Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yield: 4 main dish servings

Chicken, Orange, and Avocado Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Packed to the rafters with several "kid favorites"-- chicken, oranges, avocados, pumpkin seeds -- this main dish salad is a hit in our household. I always sprinkle a little pinch of salt over the avocado before scooping it from its peel since that really brightens the flavor. You can ease your same-day prep by doing the dressing and getting the chicken marinating a day ahead of time.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 medium minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • A few drops of sriracha, tabasco, or other favorite hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small heads endive
  • 2 large seedless oranges (cara cara is a tasty variety)
  • 1 small head butter lettuce or 3 heads little gems, washed and torn into pieces
  • 1 large, ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted, salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl make the marinade/dressing by whisking together the vinegar, shallots, honey, olive oil, orange juice, sriracha, and salt.
  2. Put the chicken into a medium bowl, pour 1/2 of the marinade/dressing over the top, and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably several hours, or even overnight. Store the remainder of the marinade/dressing in the refrigerator.
  3. Thirty minutes before you're ready to cook, remove the chicken and the dressing/marinade from the fridge. Lay the chicken on a baking sheet with sides. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
  4. Turn on your broiler. Set the chicken under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes per side until the inside has just barely lost its pink color and remains tender and juicy. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken and the proximity to the broiler. You can also cook the chicken on a grill, if desired.
  5. Remove chicken from heat to rest on the counter. After 10 minutes, cut into bite-size pieces
  6. While the chicken cooks, prepare the salad. Trim the stem ends off the endive and cut lengthwise down the center. Cut out the little triangle of core from the center of the endive and pull leaves apart. Set the oranges on a cutting board and use a sharp knife (serrated edge works well) to cut off the peel and pith, revealing the bright orange flesh of the fruit. Cut each orange into quarters and then cut crosswise into bite-size pieces.
  7. Put the endive, oranges, and lettuce in a large shallow bowl or platter. Dress the salad, reserving a little of the dressing. Add the chicken and avocado to the top of the salad and drizzle a little dressing over them. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the top.