There's cause for rejoicing in the supermarket vegetable bins these days. Fresh coriander!

It looks like a pale parsley without the perm. It tastes so refreshingly different from the rest of the herb family that it could be the making of an otherwise banal salad. Even iceberg lettuce would be enlivened with a touch.

Not everybody likes it, to be sure. Coriander, as pleasing a set of syllables as the language affords, is, it seems, the etymological posterity of a Greek word meaning "stink." Pay no attention. It just goes to show that the Greeks--sybarites, epicures or whatever anybody wants to call them in their devotion to high living--didn't know everything. Besides, the smell the Greeks didn't like disappears when the plant is mature.

Coriander seed pervades the Middle East in pickles and curries. The leaves, which are also known as Chinese parsley and cilantro, are most popular with Oriental and Latin American cooks.

Under any name, these leaves do well with a bland white fish, steamed, saute'ed or baked. They add character to a clear bouillon. They make scrambled eggs more interesting. Try them on a garlicky pork chop. Add them to plain rice that is to be served with chicken or vegetables.

And try these. The first is a soup attributed to William O'Dwyer, once mayor of New York. The second is a Mexican soup, and the third is a simple spread that, with the liquid element expanded, can also serve as a dip for raw vegetables. The last is a quick saute' of beef finished off with an herb and olive sauce.

ARROT SOUP CILANTRO (4 servings) 1 cup sliced raw carrots 1 clove garlic 1 medium onion, sliced 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups water 1 cup chicken stock 1 bay leaf 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon flour 2 tablespoons heavy cream

% tablespoons chopped coriander leaves Simmer carrots, garlic, onion and salt in water and stock with bay leaf until carrots are tender--10 minutes or so. Remove bay leaf and sieve or pure'e the vegetables and liquids in a food processor or blender. In a saucepan melt butter and stir in flour. Cook until golden. Add cream and pure'ed vegetables, heat and taste, adding more salt if necessary. Top with chopped coriander leaves.

ALBONDIGAS SOUP (4 servings) 1/2 pound ground beef 1/2 pound sausage 1 egg 1 slice white bread 1 clove garlic, minced 1 onion, minced 1 tablespoon oil 1/2 teaspoon sage 1 tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes 1 cup boiling water 2 cups beef stock 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Mix beef, sausage, egg, bread, garlic and onion thoroughly. Shape into balls an inch in diameter. Fry in oil until crisp and brown on the outside. Drain off any fat that has accumulated, combine meatballs with remaining ingredients and simmer 5 minutes.

CORIANDER SPREAD (Makes about 1 cup) 1/2 cup cottage cheese 1/2 cup cream cheese 2 tablespoons yogurt 3 scallions, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves Salt and pepper to taste

Whiz cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, 2 scallions, garlic and 2 tablespoons coriander leaves in blender or food processor. Stir in remaining scallions and coriander and season with salt and pepper. Serve on crackers or french bread as a nibble with the pre-prandial wine. Add more yogurt to make a dip for vegetables.

CORIANDER BEEF (4 servings) 1 pound sirloin, cut in 1/2-inch strips 1 clove garlic, minced 3 scallions, minced 1 sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped 1 green pepper, coarsely chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons chopped coriander 1 tablespoon chopped green olives 1/2 cup dry white wine

Saute' meat with garlic, scallions and peppers in olive oil until meat is lightly browned. Remove to serving dish and keep warm. Add remaining ingredients to pan, stirring over low flame 3 minutes. Pour over meat mixture.