In the mood for something light but flavorful tonight, with enough meat to make it wine-friendly but not enough to make it fat, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration: Vietnamese Pho! This dinner-in-a-dish soup meets all of the above criteria, and better yet, it's quick and easy.

I checked two or three recipes, two from my cookbook shelf and one from the Web; did a modification or two and ran out to the store for Chinese pasta, and came up with the following, which won applause all around (from me, Mary and the cats).

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 400F, place garlic, ginger and star anise in it and turn off heat. Leave them to "roast" for 5 or 10 minutes. Bring broth to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer, add garlic, ginger and star anise and simmer for 15 minutes.

Bring 2 quarts water to boil, and just before serving, throw in fresh pasta and stir to separate. Cook just until pasta rises to the top, then drain and place it in two bowls. Lay the thin beef slices over the pasta, and add the scallions, cilantro, basil and black pepper.

Remove the garlic, ginger and star anise from the broth, and pour it over the pasta and vegetables in the bowls. The heat of the broth will cook the beef.

Serve with hoisin and hot sauces, mint, lime and chile peppers for garnishing at the table.

Thassall, folks! The rare beef and aromatic flavors made this Vietnamese dish surprisingly wine-friendly with a simple red wine from Languedoc in the South of France.

I accompanied it with a sorta-Southeast Asian salad of cucumbers and sweet onions sliced paper-thin and tossed with a dressing of 1 tsp peanut oil, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp lime juice, a drop of green habanero sauce and salt and pepper.