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Corn off the cob in a colorful souffle

Ideally, corn should be eaten when it comes straight from the garden - cooked briefly and flavored with butter and salt. The sooner it's served after picking, the sweeter it will taste, since the natural sugar turns to starch quickly.

But if you have too many ears of corn, or some that is not at its peak of freshness, you can cut or scrape the kernels from the cob and cook them in several ways.

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Corn kernels are good in chowders, stews, custards, and in the following recipe, where the kernels are combined with eggs, cheese, and fresh chives in a tasty and colorful souffle.

This recipe comes from Marian Morash, whose family is so fond of sweet corn that their planting schedule provides them with fresh corn over a three-month period. The recipe is from her book, ''The Victory Garden Cookbook'' (Knopf, $ 25). Corn and Chive Souffle 2 cups scraped corn 1/2 cup packed Cheddar cheese 6 egg yolks 1/4 cup minced chives Salt and freshly ground pepper 8 egg whites 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

To scrape kernels from corncob, run a knife down the center of a row of kernels, slicing right down to the end of the ear. Continue until all the rows have been prepared. Place the corncob over a bowl. Then, using the back of the knife, push or scrape down on the kernels. The flesh and milk will spurt out. Scraping utilizes the juices and inner flesh, while leaving the skin on the cobs.

Butter 2-quart souffle dish. Blend together corn, cheese, and egg yolks. Add chives and season to taste. Beat egg whites to soft peaks, adding cream of tartar when they become foamy. Stir a quarter of whites into corn mixture to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites.

Pour into souffle dish and bake in preheated 425 degrees F. oven for 10 minutes. Turn heat to 375 degrees F. and cook 30 minutes longer. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

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