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The Soho Charcuterie Cookbook: creative, reasonable entertaining

There have been dozens of books on food style and entertaining this year. Many are huge, handsome, and expensive, with beautiful color photos. One of the most creative, also of normal size, is ''The Soho Charcuterie Cookbook: Fabulous Food for Entertaining,'' by Francine Scherer and Madeline Poley (William Morrow, $17.50).

It is basically a book for parties and special occasions. Its recipes and menus are not wedded to old traditions, and they will make you want to start cooking even if you don't have plans for a party.

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The book is an offshoot of the restaurant, Soho Charcuterie. The aim of the restaurant is not to imitate the French charcuterie shops, with their wonderful displays of hams, sausages, pates, and salads, but to add to the New York deli menu by lifting it up a few notches in imagination, quality, and variety.

Color photographs in the book show that these cooks had fun with a composed platter, stringing out fiddlehead greens with circles of bright rosemary-carrots and colorful disks of marinated beets.

An art deco arrangement uses yard-long Chinese string beans tied in square knots on a tray with white enoki mushrooms, tiny ears of corn, and other raw vegetables cut in wild shapes.

But all is not decoration. Francine Scherer and Madeline Poley also know how to use fresh foods in dishes that taste superb. The couple have a remarkable flair, and they tell how to serve elegant food for informal entertaining, allowing a lot of latitude for the cook.

There are wonderful sandwich and soup recipes such as Sugar Snap Pea Soup With Mint, Acorn Squash Soup, Black Forest Ham with Brie sandwiches, Shrimp Salad on Black Bread, Cheeseburgers, and Tuna Melt.

Some of the most special recipes are for charcuterie fare, including recipes for spicy sausages and country pork sausages, duck sausages, and seafood sausages. Most of the dishes can be cooked well ahead - important for party menus. Most of the recipes in this wide-ranging collection are relatively easy; a few are challenging. A chapter on main courses is designed for small dinner parties, and much of the once-typical breakfast food is suggested for other times of day.

It is a highly intriguing collection of recipes by cooks with a feeling for fresh ingredients and fine food.

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