Always buy whole spices—they're fresher, more aromatic, and have more punchy essential oils.
Skip the supermarkets and buy spices in bulk from ethnic groceries to save money without skimping on quality.
When toasting spices in oil, ones that go in the pan early are cinnamon and star anise because they take longer to toast and won't burn as easily. Whenever you're cooking spices with oil, make the sure the pan and oil are hot before, because as soon as the spices hit the oil, they'll release their essential oils, which flavor the dish. Only cook these for 30 seconds or so.
Cumin and coriander seeds are best dry-roasted whole in a hot pan until they're aromatic and light brown. Once they perfume your kitchen and get a nice tan, let them stay in the pan until it cools. They will get darker in the hot pan, and that's okay. Then, make sure they're completely cool before grinding them in a mortar and pestle. If you grind them when they're hot, you'll lose a lot of their essential oils in the mortar.
Store spices in tins and airtight jars to keep them from going stale.
Don't forget that on top of spicing, dishes need salt. "No amount of seasoning will ever rise to the occasion without a balanced amount of salt," Usmani writes.
Ultimately, add your spices to taste. If you like a dish with extra ginger, add it; if you don't like the flavor of cloves, you can leave it out. "People are too concerned about recipes being authentic but I think authenticity means understanding what you like," she says.