When I first met Celine Cossou, prolific cook and owner of of Celine’s Cuisine, I found her so engaging that I completely lost track of time. It was a rainy morning and we met at my favorite coffeeshop, The Pannikin, in Encinitas. Nearly 3 hours later, we glanced at our watches and couldn’t believe how the time had flown.
Celine is a joy to talk with and it’s so easy to feel her passion about food. Celine grew up in the south of France and it reflects in her simple yet sophisticated style of cooking (see the recipe below for just one example). She teaches cooking classes in Temecula and Murrieta, the latter of which includes a popular “Cooking with Trader Joe’s” cooking class. Her shopping is a blend of Trader Joe’s and the farmers market and local sources, which is also the way I love to shop for my food. And take it from me, she knows her Trader Joe’s inside out!
Read on for Celine’s favorite TJ products, great tips, and two wonderful recipes – you won’t be disappointed!
Deana: Tell me about your favorite finds at Trader Joe’s. What can’t you live without?
Celine: Yes, my fridge, freezer, and pantry are filled with TJ’s finds; even for regular cooking classes I use TJ’s products. Here are some favorites:
– Almond Meal
– Dark Morello Cherries (jarred)
– Peaches in white grape syrup (jarred)
– Organic pastas
– Nuts: Halzenuts, Almonds, Walnuts…. great selection at really affordable prices
– Olive Oil
– White balsamic vinegar
– Organic quinoa
– Chocolate Petite Batons (tiny crispy cookies; I buy between 6- 10 boxes at a time!)
– 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate imported from Belgium
– Chocolate croissants: my family’s favorite
– Croissants: the same as in Paris
– Wild mushroom and Truffle flat bread (my 5 yr old daughter’s favorite) done the Tuscany way!
– Tarte Alsacian: so delicate it makes my mouth water
– Orange chicken (my 5 yr old daughter’s favorite)
– Fried rice (my 5 yr old son’s favorite)
– Pie crust: a real find! Great for savory tarts, quiche, sweet tart, fruits tarts
– Haricots Verts, frozen: the best, in a salad or served warm
– Parisian Macarons: so delicate and elegant
– Raspberry Tart: summer on your palate!
Yogurt/ dairy/ cheeses
– Plain Village yogurt, cream on the top
– Organic Probiotics Strawberries Smoothies
– Heavy cream: the best for whipped cream and homemade ice cream
– Trio Goat Cheeses
– Raclette cheese
– Artisan Par-baked breads: Filone, Ciabatta, Baguette … the kitchen smells like a real Parisian Boulangerie when you “bake” these!
– Brioche: the best, like the ones in France, great for French toast or just plain
Deana: Great list! What’s the question people ask most often in your cooking classes? What are the cooking issues they’re interested in?
Celine: Most people tell me they see a product or ingredient and they do not know what to do with it. They are a little scared to try.
I always say to my students that cooking must be fun and that grocery shopping is an adventure at Trader Joe’s! You never know what you will find…it is never a chore. It’s like being on vacation somewhere, shopping for new foods: German, Italian, French, Indonesian…. what can be more fun than that!?
I have 3 different categories of people coming to my TJ’s Cooking classes:
First of all, I have people who come to my classes who have never entered a Trader Joe’s store. They think it is for the elite and they are afraid to go there. “I thought it was not a store for me, but I saw your cooking classes and wanted to see what they have there!” I demystify Trader Joe’s for them. I place emphasis on the quality of the products – natural and organic at good prices. I tell them how the store is different and why. And after the class when they see the products and the results, they are hooked and go shop there.
I have people who shop at Trader Joe’s but always buy the same products (and of course, a friend or someone had to introduce them to this product first) and are afraid to try new ones. So I am there to open the door for new products, new flavors, new tastes.
And I have the person who shops there regularly who likes to try all their products but wants to learn some twists and shortcuts.
In fact all my TJ’s cooking classes have been an “introduction” to new products, because even the people who shop regularly at TJ’s did not know all the products/ ingredients we used during the classes.
The theme of my “Cooking with Trader Joe’s” Cooking classes is : Good Food Fast. You take a few products, put them together and then you have a delicious and healthy meal. We cook a 3 or 4-course meal at each class.
Deana: Your approach is right up our alley. What’s the single best tip you give people too busy to cook?
Celine: If you buy good, delicious ingredients or products your meal will be delicious, too. Very simple. And after shopping 10 years at TJ’s I have never, never thrown away anything – I love all their products.
Deana: Is there a favorite TJ product that you introduce people to in your classes?
Celine: So many, the list is long. I have a lot of returning students to my classes (each class has a different menu) so they tell me what they buy at TJ’s: the Frozen croissants, the pie dough, the quinoa, the goat cheeses, the breads, the brioche, the cherries, the frozen haricots verts, the cooked beets, the cooked lentils, the heavy cream, the yogurt, …. almost everything on my favorite list is now on their favorite list.
Deana: Thank you, Celine! So much fun to get new insights from a fellow Trader Joe’s fan. Tell us about the recipe you’re sharing with us.
Celine: Savory tarts and quiches are very popular in every bistros or homes in France as a main dish, always served with a salad on the side. Very easy and quick to make, this quiche has a sweet richness and is full of Provencal and sunny flavors perfect for a summer Sunday brunch, lunch or dinner.
Celine’s Provencal Quiche with Avocado Goat Cheese Salad **
- 1 bag of Fire Roasted bell peppers and onions ( frozen)
- 1 can of Organic Tomatoes, diced no-salt added (strained)
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pie crust (thawed)
- 2 organic eggs
- 1 tsp heavy cream (optional)
- ½ tsp salt, divided
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- Variation: add diced bacon, ham, mozzarella, Pancetta, goat cheese.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onions and bell peppers, sprinkle ¼ tsp of the salt, and stir. Cook for 10 minutes until onions are soft.
- Then add the diced tomatoes and garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes stirring regularly, until most of the liquids have evaporated.(This can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge.)
- Remove the pie crust from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 10-inch glass or ceramic tart pan with olive oil or butter.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough in a 12-inch circle. Transfer into the pan, prick the bottom all over with a fork.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Season with the remaining salt, the pepper. Fold in the onion, bell pepper, and tomato mixture and transfer into the tart shell.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked.
- Serve warm, with the Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad (see below).
Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad
- 2 avocados ( peeled and cut in small pieces)
- ¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 tsp olive oil
- In a bowl, add avocado, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix all ingredients and top with goat cheese.
** Deana’s Note: If you’re used to eggier quiches (like the quiche recipes in our cookbooks ) you may not be familiar with Quiche Provencal which is lighter on the eggs and cream. This traditional quiche captures the flavors of Provence with the delicious combination of peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Thank you, Celine, for sharing this wonderful recipe.