Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Julia Child's (Hot or Cold) Cream of Cucumber Soup Revisited for Cook the Books April/May Pick: Mastering the Art of French Murder

I totally missed the boat for our April/May Cook the Books pick of Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge (April 2023) and I was the host. I have a litany of excuses involving May being full of travel, illness, increased work responsibilities and more travel, but nonetheless, you can see I am posting my review and dish today and we are 4 days into June. I will be rounding up the entries at the Cook the Books site soon --before I leave town again on Thursday and I thank our group for their patience. 

From the Publisher:

As Postwar Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, who recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe.

Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen.

Tabitha is eager to help the investigation but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse. 

My Review: 

I picked this book because I love cozy mysteries as a palate cleanser for other and heavier books and I love a good foodie cozy. I also love Julia Child and had a Once Upon a Book Club book box for it but I ended up reading it on my Kindle and I haven't opened the box and its corresponding gifts yet. I will try and do that and add to this post when I return from my trip after next week (a couple of days of PTO with a work conference added in in Oregon).

Overall, I thought this was fun--love a Paris after WWII setting and Julia was a fun character--who wouldn't want her as a friend? The food aspect was good and I thought the mystery worked. The main character Tabitha drove me a bit crazy when she called herself and "imp" or "sprite" when she was just making dumb decisions but I will still read the next book in the series that came out in April. (A Murder Most FrenchA Murder Most French

Food Inspiration: There was so much food inspiration in this book from Julia's struggle with mayonnaise to roasted chicken, salmon, stews, potatoes.... I didn't even get all of it written down. 

In the end, I went to Maine, got really sick, came back and had massive work commitments before leaving again and didn't get around to cooking a dish. Instead, I'm going to go back a few years and revisit a tasty cucumber soup from Julia Child. (First posted here). You can eat it hot or cold, making it perfect as we head into summer. 

Cream of Cucumber Soup
Slightly Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2 by Julia Child via TheDailyMeal.com
(About 6 Servings)

1 1/2 lb cucumbers, about 3 large
1/2 cup minced shallots
3 Tbsp butter
6 cups light stock (I used vegan non-chicken stock), plus extra for thinning if needed
1 1/2 tsp wine vinegar (I used tarragon Vinegar)
3/4 tsp dried tarragon
(I added 1/2 tsp dill)
4 Tbsp farina (cream of wheat) breakfast cereal (I used cream of rice cereal)
salt and white pepper to taste
1 cup minced fresh herbs like dill, tarragon or parsley

Peel cucumbers. Cut 18-24 paper-thin slices and reserve in a bowl for later. Cut the rest of the cucumber into 1/2-inch chunks; you should have about 4 1/2 cups

Cook the shallots slowly in the butter for several minutes until tender but not browned. Add the cucumber chunks, broth, vinegar, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then stir in the farina. Simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 minutes. Puree in a blender and then return the soup to the pan. Thin out with more broth if needed, and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Just before serving, beat in 1/2 cup of the sour cream. Ladle soup into bowls and place a dollop of the leftover sour cream on top of each. Float slices of cucumber on top of the sour cream and decorate with a sprinkling of herbs. 

Cooking Notes: If you are planning on eating the soup cold, let it cool down to about room temp, then stir in the sour cream and chill in fridge at least 4 hours before serving.

This soup relies mostly on farina (cream of wheat) for thickening but the cream of wheat I found in my local grocery stores was over $7.00 for a large box that I doubted I'd use up. Instead I grabbed a small box of Cream of Rice soup that was under $4.00. Cream of rice is a good gluten-free option that works just as well. I made a couple of other small changes to the recipe, noted in red on the recipe. 

Notes/Results From When I Made It: I know cold soup, cucumbers and cold soup with cucumbers are not everyone's favorite cup of soup ;-) but this one is really delicious--crisp, refreshing, the flavor of the herbs (tarragon and the dill I added) come through nicely. it's creamy and rich but the sour cream and vinegar give it a bright pop of acidity. On The daily Meal where I found the recipe, they said it was equally good cold and hot and when I tried the warm soup, it was good. There is just something about cucumbers and cold that go together though so that's the way I'll enjoy it. It's going to work with me with egg salad sandwiches this week and I'd happily make it again.

If you like food and books, and foodie books, join us in June/July when we will be reading Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs, histed by Claudia of Honey From Rock.

Happy Reading, Cooking & Eating!



  1. I'm glad you're feeling better and hope things calm down a bit so you can enjoy your summer. Of course, you enjoy summer all year long.....lucky duck

  2. I love it! Cucumbers and cold soup with cream - what's not to love? I have a big bag of cucumbers right now, destined mostly for a new jar of pickles, but we can always reserve some :)

  3. I do hope you get a bit of down time to rest up! That cucumber soup sounds totally refreshing and good for a chill out meal. I'm looking forward to making it!

  4. I hope June has been treating you better than May did, Deb. I enjoy cucumbers in moderation and never had them in a soup: your recipe sounds intriguing. I wish I could find tarragon vinegar. Not sure why I don't see it in the stores here. I love the photos: they show the soup as both refreshing and comforting :)

  5. What a fascinating recipe! Great for summer!


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