Cumin-Seared Tuna

Make your Valentine’s Day unforgettable with this romantic meal from Chef Brendan Mica and cookbook author Linda Gassenheimer.  Stay cozy indoors, heat up the stove, and be ready to “wow” your Valentine with this three-course meal for two.

Cucumber Mint Agua Fresca (Fresh Water)

  • 1 English cucumber, skin on
  • ½ bunch mint (leaves only, no stems)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Juice from 4 limes (or ½ cup lime juice)
  • 3 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

Slice the cucumber lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut the cucumber into pieces, and add to blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Serve the mixture over crushed ice. For an adult beverage, add light rum to each drink—about two ounces (or shots) per glass. (Makes four drinks.)

Cumin-Seared Tuna

(serves 2)

Note: Chef Mica sears the outside of the tuna and leaves the inside raw. If you prefer to fully cook the tuna, after searing it, bake it in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes.

  • Two 5 oz. portions of raw, sushi-grade tuna
  • ¼ cup whole cumin seeds, toasted
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Oil with a medium-high smoking point, such as grapeseed, canola or blend of olive and vegetable oil (just enough to coat the bottom of a pan)


  • ½ English cucumber, skin on, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped

Cilantro Vinaigrette: (makes about one cup)

  • ½ cup diced shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tablespoons light extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches of cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 Tablespoons)

Start by toasting whole cumin seeds in a sauté pan with no oil, continuously moving the seeds in the hot pan until they become aromatic. Turn off the burner, and let the seeds cool. Roll the fresh tuna in the whole toasted cumin. In a new pan, put just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Turn on high heat, and when the oil just begins to smoke, carefully place the tuna in the pan, then turn the tuna, searing each side for no more than five seconds. Remove the tuna from the heat, and set it aside for slicing. Salt, if desired, to taste.

For the vinaigrette, process the shallots, garlic, vinegar and lime juice in a blender on slow speed until blended. Slowly add the olive oil. Stir in chopped cilantro and salt to taste. Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and add two Tablespoons of the cilantro vinaigrette. Stir gently.

Slice the tuna about one-quarter-inch thick, and lay the slices onto each other like dominoes over the salad.

Source: Brendan Mica, executive chef, Hot Tin Roof restaurant, Ocean Key Resort and Spa, Key West, Florida.

Olive Tapenade Crostini 

  • 1 Small whole-wheat baguette
  • 6 Tablespoons olive tapenade (available in ready-made jars at the supermarket)
  • 1 Tablespoon pine nuts

Cut the baguette into six half-inch slices on a diagonal. Lightly toast the slices. Spread tapenade over the toasted bread. Sprinkle pine nuts on top.

Source: Linda Gassenheimer, award-winning author of several cookbooks, most recently, Delicious One-Pot Dishes: Quick, Healthy, Diabetes-Friendly Recipes. Based in Florida, she writes for the syndicated newspaper column, “Dinner In Minutes

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

  • 15 ounces milk chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons shortening
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Dip the strawberries, and put them on a tray. Allow the chocolate-covered strawberries to harden.