Q: After reading the question involving inexpensive cookware for a college student, I was inspired to send along a question.
My best friend and I are college students and roommates. We want to get more creative in the kitchen and we are trying to figure out good spices to have around that are fun to experiment with and easy to work with on a college budget. Does anyone have any ideas?
Sent by Samantha
Editor: Samantha, we think that spices are actually one of the easiest and most frugal ways to really amp up your cooking! A few well-chosen spices are a great way to expand your cooking repertoire and try new things.
First of all, take a look at this guide to pretty much every spice in the cupboard:
• Quick Guide to Every Herb and Spice in the Cupboard
Browse through there and see if anything really grabs you!
Our suggestions: We love smoked paprika's smoky, complex flavor. A pinch can deepen meatless stews and soups. We also like whole cumin a lot. It has a wonderful warmth and toastiness; try pan-frying a little bit of whole cumin, then throwing in tiny bites of meat and cooking and serving it all together. And finally, play around with whole spices as well as ground spices. Freshly ground cinnamon is so different from the bottled stuff. Buy a few sticks and grind them, then sprinkle over your morning oatmeal. Delicious!
As far as frugality goes, do look for spices in the bulk section of Whole Foods or your local co-op. Or buy them from Asian or Indian markets. The baking aisle of your local grocery store is the last place you should ever buy spices; they are usually overpriced, and not as fresh as the ones you will find in bulk bins.
Readers, do you have suggestions for ways that Samantha can use spices to experiment and play around in the kitchen?
Related: From the Spice Cupboard: Chinese Five-Spice Powder
(Image: Emma Christensen)