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Fast and fresh foods; Fast and Fresh, by Julie Dannenbaum. New York: Harper & Row. $13.95.

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Flexibility and a sense of humor go into the collection of recipes in Julie Dannenbaum's new cookbook. They are practical and suitable to the transient fast life most families lead today.

The approach is one of simplicity, but there are elegant menus, creative ideas, and ways of presenting foods to make them appealing.

"Fast and Fresh" is an outstanding list of really interesting, easy, quick-to-prepare menus. It is thoroughly professional, but brief.

Once you are accustomed to fine cooking, it is difficult to go back to ordinary meals or frozen dinners, often the only obvious alternative when time becomes limited after a busy workday.

Good food properly served and enjoyed does not necessarily mean leisurely dining, but should be a time for people to talk and share their lives day to day , the author believes. Then she gets down to basics -- in which all menus are timed for less than 60 minutes.

No meal requires more than one sauce, although some of the menus call for made- ahead sauces and stocks. These are in a chapter on "Weekends and Cooking Days." They are very basic menus and should be in everyone's repertoire, like homemade mashed potatoes, the author says.

Julie Dannenbaum, head of a well-known cooking school, Creative Cooking of Philadelphia, also directs cooking schools in Venice, Italy, and the Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia.

One menu is called "Stay-For-Dinner Menu for 3" includes Julie's 15-Minute Chicken, Puffed Potato Wedges, Shredded Carrots with Oil and Vinegar, and Sabayon over Sliced Bananas.

A Vegetarian Dinner includes Celery with Coarse Salt, Eggplant Bake, Wheat Germ Muffins, and Oranges with Fresh Coconut. A spring menu lists Lamb Patties with Rosemary, Baked Potato Slices, and Rhubarb Crisp.

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