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Betting on Better Health 

Local chef brings top notch cuisine to the Coeur d’Alene Casino

click to enlarge Chef Adam Hegsted (pictured with his Harvest Salad) has added heart-healthy options. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Chef Adam Hegsted (pictured with his Harvest Salad) has added heart-healthy options.

Did you know that many chefs admit they thrive on deadlines, using their adrenaline to power creativity? Chef Adam Hegsted is known for exploring new territory in the culinary world. His skills have been recognized both nationally and regionally. But his latest position as executive chef for the Coeur d’Alene Casino’s Worley, Idaho, resort properties brings a whole new set of challenges and ample opportunity to get the adrenaline pumping — creating menus and crafting food for six different food venues, often open simultaneously. And there are plans to expand, adding a pub and steak house.

Chef Hegsted came to his new job as executive chef with six sous chefs and 60 employees from stints as executive chef at the Space Needle in Seattle and at Brix in Coeur d’Alene. I asked him about that jump. “When I first walked in, I thought I was crazy to do this,” he says. “But then my creative juices got rolling. I have applied the freshness and attention to flavor I did in the bistro kitchen to even the buffet line.”

Yes, but buffet lines are not a typical foodie’s favorite venue. How does he avoid the stereotype of overcooked food? “My chefs are constantly cooking, the pans on the line only serve five to 10 servings, so the food offerings are always fresh.”

Traveling out to the casino, four miles north of Worley, I noticed a large billboard touting the benefits of exercise for diabetes. Indeed, diabetes education and prevention is taken seriously at the Benewah Medical Wellness Center — statistics show that nearly 17 percent of Native Americans have Type 2 diabetes, the highest prevalence for any racial or ethnic group in the country. Type 2 diabetes often can be avoided by making changes in the diet and increasing the level of physical activity.

Local chefs know I come looking for good nutrition options for the diner. I inquired about Hegsted’s commitment to healthy food.

“I just finished the Sweet Grass Café menu, and it shows our attention to flavor and healthy options,” says Hegsted. “The chicken wings are oven-roasted, not fried. Many of our offerings, like the baked rigatoni, are [noted] with a heart to assist those with special dietary needs.”

Hegsted’s artistry is evident on the menu. An avocado sandwich description reads: “Fresh avocado on olive bread with marinated tomatoes, goat cheese, smoked balsamic vinegar, lemon dressed sprouts and grilled red onion.” Hungry yet?

Here’s a healthy recipe to try at home. It features hydroponically grown lettuce — a method using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil.

“This is the perfect winter salad,” says Hegsted, “featuring hydroponic Bibb lettuce, with added winter squash, cured meat, powerful cheese and toasted maple pecans. Big flavors in a hearty salad.”

Harvest Salad

12 half-inch slices of blanched winter squash (steam whole until al dente, then slice)
Pan spray
8 oz Bibb Lettuce, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 T Pepper-Truffle Vinaigrette
1 oz Paper-Shaved Prosciutto
Black pepper for dusting
2 T Maple Pecans
1 oz shaved parmigiano
Reggiano Cheese

Spray squash with pan spray and grill until lightly golden. In small mixing bowl, toss lettuce with vinaigrette and set aside. Lay prosciutto on plate; dust plate with pepper. Lay squash next to prosciutto. Sprinkle plate with pecans, top with lettuce, then shaved parmigiano. Serves 4

Pepper-Truffle Vinaigrette
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp shallot, minced
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 T water
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup truffle oil

Combine ingredients except oils in a blender. With blender on, slowly drizzle in oil. Turn off when all oil has been poured in and is emulsified. If vinaigrette gets too thick, add a bit more oil.

Maple Pecans
1/2 lb pecans
1/2 cup Vermont maple syrup
1 pinch Chinese 5-spice
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1/2 T oil

Place all ingredients except oil into a small pan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; let reduce 3 to 6 minutes until thickened slightly. Sprinkle some sugar into pot to start crystallization; after crystallization, add oil, take nuts out of pan and place onto greased parchment sheet.Toast in oven for 5 minutes until golden. Let cool and dry.

Nutrition: 284 calories, 11.5g total fat, 43g carbos, 6g protein, 3g fiber

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