One highlight of this year's Opera Ball was the introduction of a dessert buffet table. At the request of ball chairman Diana Kiker, a quartet of women chefs provided the desserts for more than 400 people at the Japanese Embassy last weekend.

Carol Mason, the Georgetown cooking teacher and caterer who coordinated the cooking and baking, made cold lemon souffles and figs poached in the manner of Alice B. Toklas.Ann Amernick, who most recently was pastry chef at Le Pavillion, prepared fresh raspberry and chocolate toffee tortes.Lisa Yockelson, who also does catering and teaches, made 10 varieties of cookies, and Mary Picaro baked cheesecakes.

Here is one of the recipes that is particularly suitable for summer entertaining.


(8 to 10 servings) 5 egg yolks 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 rounded tablespoon grated lemon zest 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 1/4 cup cold water 5 egg whites Pinch of cream of tartar Pinch of salt 1 cup heavy cream

Put egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice and zest into a (nonaluminum) saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon (180 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat.

Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and allow it to soften. Add gelatin mass to the yolk mixture and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Place the pan into a bowl containing ice cubes and water and stir until the mixture becomes syrupy and begins to set. Meanwhile whisk beaten egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until they reach soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and beat until whites are thick and shiny.

Beat the cream until it forms a soft peak.

Take about a cup of egg white and stir into the yolk mixture. Pour over the remaining whites and fold together rapidly. Fold in the cream. When mixed, pour into an 8-cup souffle mold or glass serving bowl and chill four hours or overnight.

Before serving, garnish with whipped cream rosettes and fresh strawberries or blueberries. Serve with a dessert wine such as sauterne.