The thread about recession cuisine has given me some good ideas.
Here's a related question: How can you take a special ingredient -- maybe even a luxury ingredient -- to make food that is inexpensive seem special. So that it doesn't seem like so much of a sacrifice.
One ingredient that came to me is smoked paprika. It has such a special flavor that it seems like it can elevate things that would otherwise seem very plain and modest. Like a potato soup, say.
What special ingredients would you nominate for this kind of purpose and how do you use them?