With the warm weather now becoming (sort of) commonplace here in Chicago, guacamole has come to the forefront again as one of my primary food groups. Many variations of this incomparable dip have come in and out of my life throughout the years, but I think I've finally articulated my ideal combination of ingredients thanks to inspiration from Ina Garten and Heidi Swanson (surprise surprise). What I've found through excessive trial and error is that there are three key tricks to making a bowl of guacamole go from mundane to memorable. 

1. Avocado prep: This little trick has been a huge game changer in my guacamole success. In lieu of smashing the avocado with a fork or potato masher, I implement Ina's technique and cut the avocados roughly using a sharp chef's knife. This method avoids that too-smooth-for-comfort, pasty texture found in most run of the mill guacamoles and gives the dip a good, toothsome bite.  

2. Layered spice flavor: Instead of just getting spice from one place, why not go for three? I like the combination of finely diced red onion, minced jalapeño, and a few dashes of hot sauce as they each lend different levels/varieties of heat as well as some crunch. 

3. Balance: Herbs and acidity are key players in most dishes, but especially in guacamole. I am a cilantro lover, not a hater, and think a roughly chopped sprinkling adds an immediate pop of freshness. But if you fall into the group that  picks up on a weird soapy flavor, by all means, omit! On the acidity front, I've always been more partial to limes versus lemons in my guacamole as I think it helps brighten all of the other ingredients and adds that signature summery flare. Perhaps the most important element in rounding out this recipe though, salt and pepper. Go for a bit more of each than you would normally consider appropriate. It makes a world of difference. 

From personal experience, I can tell you that this guacamole does not stick around for long. So on the next sunny day to come your way, find a comfy outdoor spot, pour a cold beer, open a bag of your favorite tortilla chips, and enjoy. Your friends will thank you later.  

Quantities/ingredients in this recipe are far from set in stone so feel free to adjust anything as you wish or even add in other flavorings like garlic, tomato, and even tangy cheeses/Greek yogurt. 

Guacamole

4 ripe avocados 

1/2 small red onion, minced

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and minced (feel free to preserve the seeds if you like it extra spicy)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 lime, juiced

4-6 dashes of hot sauce (Cholula/Tabasco are my favorites)

Salt and pepper

Tortilla chips, for serving 

Cut the avocados in half. Remove the pits and scoop the flesh out of their skins into a large bowl. Using a sharp chef's knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are chopped to your textural liking. Add in the onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix lightly to combine and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serves 4