On chilly evenings, vegetarian protein is welcome, especially in the immortal combination of beans and rice. For centuries, many countries have subsisted well on combinations of vegetables and grains -- with little or no animal protein. North Americans are now interested in making a shift, at least in part, to some of these food combinations.

Beans and rice, a favorite blend for our neighbors to the south, may be combined in any number of dishes, but in my estimation soup allows for the greatest creativity. Here are a couple of hearty soup recipes that are prepared in a couple of hours with little effort. Furthermore, you cah adjust ingredients and add more vegetables to your own taste. With a green salad and hot bread, both recipes feed a family of six well.

If, however, you are only four, there are some things you can do with the leftover soup. I'm sure you have noticed how bean soups thicken as they cook and as they sit. The first soup, Bean and Tomatoe-Rice, may be mixed with cooked whole-grain noodles or macaroni and baked in the oven as a casserole. Be sure to top it with a generous amount of cheese before baking.

Again combined with cheese, the lentil soup makes a tasty stuffing for an omelet. Or curry can be added to it the next day to make a sauce for pasta or another cooked grain. And you can serve it over toasted bread or muffins. Sprinkle cheese on top and place the servings under the broiler to melt the cheese. BEAN AND TOMATOE-RICE SOUP (6 servings) 2 quarts water 1 pound white beans (great northerns) 2 medium onions, finely chopped 1 cup loosely packed parsley, minced 1/3 cup olive oil 4 cloves garlic, mashed 2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano 1 bay leaf 28-ounce can peeled crushed tomatoes 2 cups water 3 cups cooked brown rice 1/4 cup dry sherry Dash hot pepper sauce Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Bring water to a boil in a soup pot and add the beans. Boil 4 to 5 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook until beans are tender (about 1 hour). Saute onions and parsley in oil with garlic until mixture is softened. Add to beans with salt, oregano, bay leaf, tomatoes and water. Simmer for another 40 minutes, then add rice and sherry and continue to simmer 10 minutes. Add hot pepper sauce to taste and serve with grated cheese. ASIAN LENTIL AND RICE SOUP (6 servings) 2 quarts water 12-ounce package lentils 3 cups cooked brown rice 3 cups water 1/4 cup oil 1 cup chopped green onion (white and pale green part) 1/2 cup minced parsley 1 cup chopped celery 3 large cloves garlic, minced or mashed 2-inch pience fresh ginger, grated 1/2 cup minced green pepper 2/3 cup soy sauce 1 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar Hot pepper sauce 1 tablespoon oil 2 eggs, beaten

Bring water to a boil and add lentils. Cover and simmer until tender (about 1 hour), then add rice and water. Meanwhile, heat oil and saute onions, parsley, celery, garlic, ginger, and green pepper until softened. Add to soup with soy sauce, salt and vinegar. Continue to simmer for another 45 to 50 minutes. Add hot pepper sauce to taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan and pour in eggs to cover bottom of pan. Cook until set, then shred and use as a garnish for the soup.