Cilantro Chicken with California Avocado and Pickled Tomato Salsa

Cilantro Chicken

The photo above comes from yours truly and the California Avocado Commission. I’m blessed to work with them on photo assignments, shooting amazing recipes and eating beautiful California avocados until I burst (well, I wait until they leave the studio before I make a pig of myself, actually).  This recipes was created by  Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Ciudad, a client I’ve worked with several times and that I adore (Hi Peter and Leah!).  You see? It’s one big delicious circle.

There’s something to be said about being in the presence of people who know their stuff and love their work. It’s contagious and I’ve learned more about avocados this past year than I ever thought possible.  And when Mary Sue and Susan are involved you know you’re in for a treat. So after checking with the powers-that-be (i.e. the Ad Agency!) I’m happy to be sharing this recipe and photo with you.

When you’re on the set working there’s really not as much eating and snacking as you think there is. Food Stylists will have your head on a platter if you mess with their food (I’ve had my hand slapped and received about 12 spankings this past year alone) but for some reason I had a hard time photographing this recipe. It had that savory, juicy look to it and an aroma that was heavenly and I felt like jumping into the plate. It’s all about the avocados and salsa here, made with a combination of spices that conjure up Asian, Latin and Indian influences. If you’ve ever make Mary Sue & Susan’s recipes you’ll notice they are multi-layered with globally-inspired flavors. The salsa here is a perfect example. I took a bit of it after the shoot and I found it remarkably at home on top of eggs but you could use the salsa recipe for just about anything. Of course you’ll need to slice up more avocados each time you want to enjoy it but I don’t really have a problem with that. Perhaps I should. I sometimes think I eat too many avocados. Oh what am I saying? They’re good for you. Enough said.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. It’s completely appropriate for Cinco De Mayo as long as you do NOT  forget the beer.

Cilantro Chicken with California Avocado and Pickled Tomato Salsa recipe courtesy Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger and the California Avocado Commission.

4 (6 oz.) boneless chicken thighs or breasts, with skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ Cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
4 scallions, trimmed
Pickled Tomato Salsa (recipe below)
2 ripe Fresh California Avocados, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 Cups cooked brown basmati rice

1. In a shallow, non-reactive dish, season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Combine olive oil, lime juice, cilantro and cumin in a small bowl. Brush mixture on scallions and pour remainder over chicken, tossing to evenly coat. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Preheat broiler or grill. Beginning with skin side toward the heat source, broil or grill chicken until just cooked through, about 12 minutes per side for thighs and about 9 minutes per side for breasts. Grill or broil scallions about 2 minutes per side.
3. Toss Pickled Tomato Salsa with diced avocados and reserve until chicken is cooked.
4. To serve, arrange grilled chicken over a bed of basmati rice. Mound avocado salsa mixture on top of chicken. Garnish with grilled scallions. Serve immediately.

Pickled Tomato Salsa

1 Pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in quarters
½ bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 Serrano chiles, with seeds, thinly sliced in rounds
½ Cup white vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne
½ tsp turmeric
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with scallions and chiles.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar to a boil. Add brown sugar and salt, and cook until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and reserve.
3. Measure ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cracked peppercorns, cumin, cayenne and turmeric onto a plate and place near stove. In another medium saucepan, heat oil over moderate heat until just smoking. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until aromas are released, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar mixture. Immediately pour over reserved tomato mixture. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or several days.
4. Before serving, remove tomatoes from juices, roughly chop, and return to pickling liquid.

Note: To peel tomatoes, remove the cores and score an X on the underside. Blanch for 15 seconds in boiling water and immediately plunge into iced water to prevent continued cooking. Peel with a paring knife.

Matt’s P.S.: In light of all the Ethics Chat happening in the Food Blogging World I must tell you that this is not a paid posting nor did I receive any compensation from any parties mentioned above. I just happen to like them and California growers. So there.


  1. says

    This looks like a brilliant fresh summer time dish. I love avocado as well! A handy tip is that if you are only using half an avocado leave the stone in the half you are not using and it stops it from going brown.

  2. says

    YUM, talk about fresh food. Lovely shot, love the linens with the food. Nice stuff mate!

    Super excited for you BTW with whole Studio B thing.

  3. AnnaBelleLee says

    Yum! Yum! That just looks so delicious. And, I like that the recipe sounds pretty easy….so many times, the professionals have recipes that include exotic ingredients, or eleventy-million steps.

    I LOVE your blog and your photographs and EVERYTHING here!

  4. says

    Wow, that looks incredible. So fresh and tasty – perfect as a light summer meal I guess. Will definitly try it. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

  5. says

    I’m always looking for new ways to bring some pizazz to that boring ‘ol staple–boneless, skinless chicken breast. This looks fantastic!

  6. says

    It appears that the perfect avocado WAS harmed in the making of this photograph. Spectacular!

  7. says

    I think I can just smell the beautiful mix of aroma from here :) I don’t eat chicken but the marinate sauce sounds super delicious! And of course I will try the avocado-tomato salsa soon, but since I am in Italy, I’ll use sicilian avocados :) Thank you for sharing Matt!

  8. says

    It looks great, Matt. You always take super photographs. And the recipe sounds fabulous. I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and you sure have come a long way, baby. Your blog looks great too. If you get a chance, please stop by my newly redesigned blog on my new domain and tell me what you think of it.

  9. sharon kile says

    I like the Haas avocados, I do not like the Florida avocados;
    The Haas look like the California avocados.. are they the same??

    I love them just cut up; just like the receipe

  10. says

    Isn’t it such a pleasure working with passionate professionals?! I completely agree. I’m currently on assignment writing a food piece in the Philippines and I’ve been touched by the hospitality people have shown me and the knowledge they have shared – a little different to what you were talking about for yourself, but the same idea nonetheless. Your work is absolutely brilliant, it must be an equal pleasure for your colleagues to work with you :)

    And to the salsa, it looks bomb! The avocados here are much more watery in flavour – not like the Californian variety – so I’ll have to wait till I get back to Oz to try it out… but I’m excited, those mix of influences sound too good!

  11. says

    Looks and sounds great!! But I’m allergic to cilantro (closes my throat)!! I hate that I’m allergic to it!! It is SO GOOD!!

  12. says

    this picture is lovely, and the delicious texture is making me hungry. I am wondering what camera you use, and what would be a reliable camera for food photography?

  13. says

    Looks terrific. I think I could put avocado on almost anything. You have to love living in Southern California – other than the chickens (local ordinance) you can grow everything fresh in your own backyard. Wish I’d planted an avocado 20 years ago.

  14. says

    Your photography and graphic art skills are a constant source of inspiration for me — your blog is eye candy!

    I’ve added you to my blogroll; it will be live later today.

    “improving personal productivity at home”

  15. says

    Did you save a piece for me? Sorry, that it has been awhile. Life in Denver is a bit nutty. Great to see your work again Matt. By the way, the winner for the rack of lamb from the Menu for Hope has never claimed it (it went great with gorgonzola sauce!). Oh, and check out my blog, I landed a job for Chef Keegan Gerhardt!!!

  16. EatingMachine says

    Hi Matt, Just read your “Wahoo Escabeche” post and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I live in Los Angeles area also and was wondering if you know of a fishmonger where I can buy mackerel. Thanks.

  17. says

    If there’s something I terribly miss on the other side of the world, that is avocados. Eating them with whatever you like, but specially in a salsa with some cebollitas asadas (like yours on the pic) are just so heaven on earth.

    ps. next time even if it’s not a paid post ask for a free case of aguacates!! You deserve it! ….ok, just joking.

  18. says

    Matt, I made this tonight. IT WAS FANTASTIC! I did not have serrano peppers so I used some jalepenos I had roasted on the grill. The pickled salsa is a keeper! It is a little labor intensive but well worth the effort!

  19. says

    Wow, that looks absolutely delicious! You did a great job presenting the pictures too, I will definitely have to try this recipe when I have some time this weekend :)

  20. says

    Oh this post makes me yearn for So Cal and it’s Avocado Commisson. I remember their billboards along I-10 advertising just one thing: Aguacates! Now living in NYC I to pay too much for the lovely little fruit or grudgingly settle for the cheaper (sweeter and not as buttery, and in my opinion not as good) Flordia variety. Sigh.

  21. says

    People you must try this chicken. Looking at it is one thing, tasting it is like a little peice of heaven on earth!@!

  22. kristina says

    This looks gerat! just a helpful tip to save time from all the chopping and the garlic’s odor from the hands… is to us -Dorot Fresh Frozen Herbs, such as their Crushed Garlic Cubes and their Chopped Cilantro Cubes. It really saves time and hassle-Im very plessed.

  23. petesjoy says

    An absolute taste sensation!! My fella’s a vegetarian, so for him I replaced the chicken with Quorn (UK brand) fillets, preparing and cooking it in exactly the same way. I didn’t bother skinning and deseeding the tomatoes and I also didn’t have enough time to keep the salsa in the fridge for 4hrs, but it still tasted fab! I steamed some green beans to serve as another 1 of our 5 a day! Very simple to make and I will definitely make this again. People would be drooling if you served this up at a BBQ!


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