Yes. Learning to cook with your lover will be fun -- and the best way to learn. What you're asking from us is to teach you how to cook from scratch -- quite a tall order for an internet bulletin board. I do understand though, the desire to learn on your own.
I'll be more than happy to help with you specific dishes that you can manage on your own and will help move you along your learning continuum -- along as preparing things that don't require you to ask for help or supervision every two minutes. It would help me help you if you could be more specific with what you wanted to cook.
In the meantime, here's a recipe from a book I'm writing for beginning cooks that's satisfying, romantic and good-restaurant level. In exchange, I want your honest criticism.
WITH A MILD, GREEN PEPPERCORN PAN REDUCTION SAUCE
Basic California Marinade, and California Beef Dry Rub
For any tender beef steak, cut into (“steaked”) whatever passes in your household as serving size.
Remove your steaks from the fridge, and marinate them on the kitchen counter in the following Basic California Marinade (enough for four servings of steak):
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs red wine
1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
Marinate for anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours. It may not seem like much, but this is enough marinade for four medium-small steaks or two large ones. There should be very little liquid in the pan, just enough to coat the bottom. In a short time, the marinade will mix with the steak's juices and thicken to a heavy syrup. This is a good thing, you want the syrup to serve as a “slather” (a barbecue term for a condiment which, like mortar, holds rub to meat), more than to force flavor into the meat. Beef steak has the right flavor already.
About 5 minutes before cooking, drain the marinade from the pan. With the steaks in the same pan, still moist with marinade, season them on both sides with California Dry Rub for Beef :
1/4 cup Morton's Kosher salt,
1-1/2 tbs fresh, coarsely cracked black pepper,
2 tsp California chili powder
2 tsp granulated garlic,
1 tsp granulated onion,
pinch dried sage, and
pinch dried thyme.
This is more than you’ll need for your steaks, but I wanted to keep the amounts large enough to mix conveniently. Don’t worry, it keeps well for about a month, you’ll use whatever’s left long before it goes stale. Practicalities having been dealt with we can address the burning question of, “What makes it so California and all?” The answer lies in a later sub-section of the book, California Barbecue. Skip over, if you’re of a mind.
Tip: One of the big differences between home and professional cooks is that home cooks tend to under-season. Don't be intimidated. Judge how much rub you'll use by the concentration of salt.
Meanwhile, back at the food: Finely mince a tbs or two of shallots and parsley, and prep your mise en place with:
1-1/2 tbs of minced shallots or red onion
2 tbs minced parsley, curly or Italian flat leaf
1 oz cognac,
2 oz additional cognac, or Madeira or sherry if desired,
1/4 cup heavy cream,
1-1/2 cold, salted butter, cut into 3 pieces,
1/2 tsp dijon mustard if desired, and
green or pink pepper corns if desired.
Heat a heavy but responsive (not cast iron) pan that can take some abuse to near searing temp and add a couple of drops of EVO, swirl the pan so the oil coats the bottom. The hot oil will run very freely (one of the signs the pan is ready). Assuming the pan is ready, the oil will start to smoke very quickly. You want to get the steaks in the pan at exactly that moment. If the oil doesn’t run, the pan isn’t hot enough. Put it back on the fire and get the steaks in the pan at the smoke point. This close timing means you must PAY ATTENTION. No phones, no walk-aways.
Still in the paying attention mode we come, very quickly, to the point where the steaks are seared and must be turned.
IMPORTANT TIP: Don't touch those bad girls. Don't lift them. Leave them alone for at least 2 minutes. Shake the pan gently to see if they'll release on their own. If not, leave them alone for another minute and give the pan another, more vigorous shaking. If the still won't move, knock them on their side with your spatula or tongs to get them sliding. Once sliding, you can turn them.
When the steaks are turned, let them cook for no more than a minute before putting them, pan and all, in a 400 degree oven. Assuming a 6 oz, 1-1/2" fillet remove them from the oven after 7 minutes for a point. Remove the steaks from the pan to rest on a warm plate.
Note: Remember during the rest of the preparation, the pan handle will be HOT HOT HOT.
There either will or won’t be excess fat in the pan. Up to a 1/2 tbs or so is a good thing. More is greasy. If more, drain the excess. In any case, the pan should be over a medium-hot flame. Now that we’ve got the pan on the flame, using a pot holder, take the pan off the stove, and hold it away from your body, and add the first ounce of cognac. Immediately flame if off. When the flames have died, return the pan to the burner and unstick the crystallized meat juices stuck to the bottom of the pan (the fond) with your tongs, spatula or preferably a soup spoon (not a wooden spoon) into what’s left of the fat and cognac, and add the mustard, and the green peppercorns. Swirl everything around by shaking the pan, stirring furiously with your spoon. Make sure everything is fully incorporated – especially the fond.
Note: When you unstuck the fond by adding liquid and scraping or stirring, you deglazed the pan; the product is called a deglaze.
Add the additional cognac or wine if you're using it and let the volume by about one half, stirring constantly.
Add the cream and as soon as it comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium and stir until the sauce has reached a nappe consistency.
TIP: When cooking teachers refer to nappe (nap-PAY) they talk about “coating the back of a spoon.” That’s a little ambiguous. Let’s make it more specific. Put a metal, soup spoon into the sauce and hold it up. If the sauce runs off leaving the spoon bare, it needs more reduction. If a thick glob stays with the spoon, the sauce is too thick and should be thinned. If the back stays coated, use your index finger to draw a diagonal stripe across the back of the spoon. If the sauce doesn’t run back into the stripe immediately, it’s nappe. This, by the way, is one of the reasons you don’t use a wooden spoon. The other being that a wooden spoon won’t do as good a job of getting the fond off the bottom of the pan.
Still using your trusty soup spoon, whisk in 1-1/2 tbs of butter, broken into 3 pieces, one small piece at a time, incorporating each piece before adding another. Turn off the heat before adding the last piece, then incorporate it with residual heat. Mix in half the parsley. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.
Plate the steaks with the best presentation side up, rotate them so their best looking part is closest to the plate's edge. Sauce with a soup spoon, covering 1/2 - 2/3 of the surface of the filet, leaving the best looking part naked. Use enough sauce so it drips generously onto the steak forming a small puddle in the center of the plate. Add just enough parsley for a fresh appearance.
You should know:
The recipe is simple, frenetic and contains a number of techniques. Understanding them will improve your ability to perform them and give you the freedom to create your own dishes.
Searing includes encouraging meat proteins to undergo a process similar to caramelization, called the Maillard reaction. When done right, most of the browned, crystallized proteins stay with the surface of the meat and some, along with a touch of seasoning from the meat, will stay with the pan. If you remove the meat from the surface of the pan too soon, you'll alter the reaction and the meat will never brown properly. If you wait too long, the taste will move from sweet to bitter. Fortunately, a clean, smooth, seasoned or lightly oiled pan, will hold the meat until it's ready to turn, then release it at exactly the right moment.
When the meat goes into the oven, the surface temperature actually goes down slightly and the juices will begin to run -- slightly. When these juices hit the hot pan they, along with the glaze from the sear process form the fond, which in turn, structures the reduction sauce.
This type of sauce is called a “pan reduction,” that is, it is constructed and thickened in the wide, shallow, cooking pan. The right consistency for pan reductions is almost always nappe. The recipe I've given you is a simple, classic, yet typical reduction. The constants for the sauce, are the deglaze and incorporation of fond, and the final nappe consistency. Don't mess with them.
Of course there are an infinite number of pan reductions, not to mention a few more recipes in this book. But the range of pan reduction sauces is much greater than the scope of this, or almost any, book. Feel free to substitute anything for anything else as per your whim. But remember the meat is the star, and the sauce only there as a highlight. Simplicity is the key.