COME SUMMERTIME, many a cook's thoughts turn to cooling salads. Suddenly everything becomes salad material - including rice. Rice? Who would want to eat a mass of cold yucky rice? No one, of course. Which is why a good rice salad is chock full of a variety of ingredients (and textures) and is quite a colorful concoction by the time it's finished.

Rice salads also have an advantage in that they can, and often should be, made ahead of time. Not only does this allow the salad to marinate in its dressing, it also means that the cooking and kitchen work can be done in the cool of the evening, the day before the salad is to be served. If you dislike the bustle of last-minute preparations, then just include a rice salad in a menu and you can whip it out of the refrigerator minutes before a meal.

Heartier than many kinds of salads, rice salads work particularly well when served with barbecued or simply grilled meats. Other rice salads include meat, and are complete one-dish meals well worth a picnic in their own right.

Once you've tossed up some of these rice salads, you'll be convinced that there's much more to rice than just tossing it at weddings. JAMES BEARD'S SUMMER RICE SALAD (4 servings) 3 cups water 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon salt 1 pinch saffron 1/2 cup uncooked converted rice 1/2 cup oil 2 1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar Freshly ground black pepper 1/2 finely chopped red onion 1/3 cup finely chopped seeded tomato 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper 1/4 cup raisins 1/2 cup pinenuts 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Bring water to a boil. Add the bay leaf, salt and saffron. Stir rice in slowly so that the water never stops boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and let cook 11 to 13 minutes. Toss with a fork. Drain rice, remove bay leaf, add oil, vinegar and pepper. Let the mixture cook another 10 minutes with this sauce. Then add onion, tomato, celery, green pepper, raisins, pinenuts and parsley. Toss well and add more oil or vinegar and seasoning if needed. Spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with sliced eggs and tomatoes. Serve very cold. CURRIED RICE SALAD I (4 servings) 1 medium onion 1 small apple 4 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 tablespoon curry powder 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice 1 tablespoon tomato puree or catsup 2 cups of chicken stock 1 carrot, coarsely grated 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional) 1 1/2 cups large, shelled shrimp (about 3/4 pound)

Peel and slice onion. Peel and chop apple. In a large skillet heat the onion and apple in butter, then stir in curry powder and rice cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring well. Add tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook steadily for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. mAdjust seasonings and add sugar if you like a sweet curry. Stir in carrot and shrimp, and heat for an additional 5 minutes (less if the shrimp are small). Chill. After the salad has chilled, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salad oil and toss gently. Place the salad on a serving platter, garnish with green pepper rings and lemon slices. Serve with traditional curry accompaniments (sambals) such as grated coconut, raisins and chutney. CURRIED RICE SALAD II (6 to 8 servings) 4 cups cooked rice (1 1/3 cups uncooked) 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 1 can (4 ounces) chopped pimiento 8 pitted ripe olives, cut in half 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms 1/2 cup snipped parsley 2 tablespoons currants (or raisins) 2 tablespoons snipped chives 1/3 cup salad oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 teaspoons curry powder 2 teaspoons anchovy paste 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 can (4 1/2 ounces) of shrimp

Combine rice, celery, pimiento, olives, mushrooms, parsley, currants and chives. Place the salad oil, lemon juice, curry powder, anchovy paste and cinnamon in a covered jar and shake vigorously until blended and smooth. Add this dressing to the rice mixture; toss gently but thoroughly. Then add the shrimp gently so it doesn't break up. Cover and chill. RED RICE SALAD (4 to 6 servings) 2 cups cold, cooked long-grain rice 2 cups peeled and diced cooked beets 1/4 cup sliced scallions 2 tablespoons wine vinegar 2 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (add more if fresh basil is used) 1/2 cup diced green beans cooked until tender-crisp 1/4 cup diced carrots cooked until tender-crisp 1 cup diced cooked lean beef (about 1/2 pound)

Combine the rice, beets and scallions in a bowl. Place the vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a covered jar and shake vigorously until blended. Add this dressing to the rice mixture; toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours.

Close to serving time, add basil and mayonnaise. Fold green beans, carrots, beef and mayonnaise into salad. Taste and adjust seasonings again if necessary. If you wish, garnish with the black olives, sliced eggs and parsley or watercress.