Let me start off by saying that I am perfectly aware that more and more women are taking to the grill and that standing over the fire is no longer reserved for the men in the family. However, I find that in most grilling households, the man of the house tends to be a little more comfortable using the grill than the oven. So my advice to you men out there is when it comes to preparing a meal for that special person take it to the grill and you won't go wrong. Of course, you need to know that if you want it to count you must be ready to do all of the work.
It doesn't count if you throw the steaks on the grill while she prepares everything else. It doesn't count if she has to pick out the menu or do the shopping. And it certainly doesn't count if she ends clearing the table and washing the dishes. If you really want to earn the extra points, you need to take care of everything. A little surprise doesn't hurt either. So, plan it all out and be prepared to do the work.
Now, what to fix? This is the tough part because it also doesn't count if it's your favorite dish. I want you to think long and hard about her eating habits and particularly what she orders at a restaurant when she isn't getting a salad. And by a restaurant I'm not talking about the kind the serves breakfast 24 hours a day. If you either haven't known her long enough or you weren't paying attention then, you're going to have to make an educated guess. Okay, who am I kidding, a stab in the dark.
If you're really grasping at straws, then think this way: meat, fish or fowl. On the meat side, I'm going to suggest either the classic steak or perhaps some lamb chops. If you really want to go the extra mile and have the skills to do it, try a rack of lamb. On the fish front it is hard to go wrong. You might want to try some simple halibut, fish wrapped in leaves or seafood. For fowl try game hens or a rotisserie chicken. Remember, when planning a meal always start with the main course.
There are a couple more rules to follow. Don't present her with a gigantic steak if she tends towards a small appetite. You want her to be able to leave a little back while still getting a good meal, but you don't want her trying to stuff herself with more then she can handle. Portion size should be a little more than a person can eat so they don't feel obligated to overeat. And, of course, you need to serve a complete meal. This means vegetables. I know, if you are like me then vegetables are put on the plate as a garnish. But most women I know actually like the stuff, so pick her favorite and cook it simply. You don't need to go overboard on the vegetables but they should at least be palatable. I like asparagus because it is easy and as long as you don't overcook them, they're great. You can soak asparagus in cold water for 30 minutes then throw it on the grill until it just starts to soften. Asparagus should have a little crunch to it, but still be cooked through. If she's not big on asparagus I have a lot more recipes you can try.
To finish off the meal try starting with a small salad or perhaps some shrimp on ice. These are simple to prepare and always appreciated. You can put these together hours in advance and not have to worry about them later. Finish off the meal with dessert. While chocolate is the dessert of choice, something that is light and refreshing will put her in the mood for something other than a nap.
Once you have the menu planned out and made the trip to the grocery store, it's time to plan it all out. Since you are the one doing the dishes, you want to have as few as possible for after the meal. So, what you want to do is prepare everything in advance except those things you are grilling. Marinate the main course in a resealable plastic bag and wash any dishes beforehand. Prepare salads, shrimp cocktails or any other cold food items in advance and place it in the dish you will be serving it in. Put some plastic wrap over it and put in the refrigerator. Depending on the dessert, you can probably do the same. This leaves you with almost no dishes to wash but the serving dishes.
Remember, the first rule of treating anyone to a great meal is: all they have to do is enjoy it. The second rule is to make it look easy. The secret is to prepare everything in advance and know exactly what you need to do to get the meal to the table. I find that a small 3 x 5 card with basic instructions is invaluable. You certainly don't want to forget anything. So plan it out well in advance and good luck.