Sunday, 21 July 2024


Firefighters from the Pacific islands of Saipan, Guam, American Samoa and Hawaii have come to California to learn more about wildland firefighting as they assist with fire suppression efforts on the Mendocino National Forest. Courtesy photo.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Firefighters from islands in the Pacific have joined the fight to contain wildland fires on the Mendocino National Forest.

When lightning storms came through Northern California on June 21, nearly 1,800 fires were sparked across the California, which stretched local and state resources thin.

On the Mendocino National Forest, the Mendocino Hotshots and initial attack crews had already worked nonstop to suppress the Whiskey Fire that had begun earlier on June 12, forest officials reported. Despite fatigue they were able to contain that fire and seven others that began by the lightning storm on June 21 before being required to take a mandatory rest break.

As resources wore thin fire officials called for assistance from out of the area.

On June 28, Rich Harvey’s Interagency Management Team from the Great Basin (Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming), coming off the Clover Fire in Lone Pine, Calif., was redirected to the Mendocino National Forest to take over the 23 fires burning in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness.

However, the Great Basin is not the furthest distance from which help would come.

On July 5, the Bear Divide Hotshots reported to the incident and brought another crew with them – a 20-person crew from the island of Saipan in the Pacific Islands, forest officials reported. The Saipan crew is available through a cooperative agreement between the Pacific Islands and Region Five of the US Forest Service.

According to Germaine Burrows, acting emergency coordination center manager for the Mendocino National Forest in Willows, the Saipan crew members are excited to be here working in California.

“This is the seventh year crews have come to California. The cooperative program began in 2000,” Burrows said. “Applicants compete to be on the fire team, have to pass our physical fitness requirements, and look forward to coming to the mainland to help with our wildland fires. This has been a very positive relationship for the past several years.”

Burrows said there are four fire crews – one each from Saipan, American Samoa, Guam and Hawaii. “We recruit crew members every year, with many returning each year. It is very popular and most years we have more people apply for the crews than we can accommodate.”

The crews are trained by a cadre of experts from the US Forest Service’s Region 5 fire professionals who go to the South Pacific Islands each April. They're put through the same standard “32 Hour Basic Wildland Firefighting” training as required for wildland firefighters working for the Forest Service.

Antony Babauta, superintendent of the Saipan crew, echoed the positive results of this program. “This gives the participants better experience and opportunities to compete for jobs,” said Babauta, who has brought crews to mainland United States for several fire seasons.

The cooperative program provides opportunity for the participants to gain wildland fire experience and is part of a grant offered by the US Forest Service, Region Five through its Fire and Aviation Management program. There also is a crew from American Samoa currently working with the Fulton Hotshots on fires in southern California.

After the crews have been paired with hotshot crews for 30 days, many are given the opportunity to continue on with hotshot crews or work with engine crews from around the state.

“We have had Pacific Island crews working with us in past years,” said Mike Alarid, superintendent of the Bear Divide Hotshots from the Angeles National Forest. “Last year we were able to keep two of the participants from the program on our crew all season.”

The Saipan crew will be with the Bear Divide Hotshots for the next 30 days, helping to suppress several of the many wildfires burning in California.

Harvey’s Type 2 Incident Management team, comprised of members from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, States of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the cities of Reno and Carson City, Nevada, will be turning over management of the Yolla Bolly Complex to an incident management team from Alaska on Tuesday.



The crew undergoes a briefing on the fire situation. Courtesy photo.





LAKE COUNTY – The National Weather Service in Sacramento issued a Special Weather Statement for Lake County and areas of Northern California that went into effect Monday, forecasting high temperatures in the upper 90s in Lake County.

However, they were wrong.

The high in Lakeport on Monday was 103, according to the thermometer at Chapel of the Lakes Mortuary on High Street. This writer's Subaru thermometer recorded a high of 106 degrees as she attempted not to melt upon entering her car after work.

The National Weather Service states that it could reach a high of 110 by Thursday – so now might be a good time to stock up on some ice and go swimming.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Lake County Skies on July 15, 2008 at 9 p.m. Courtesy of John Zimmerman.


LAKE COUNTY – July’s heat brings out some nasty critters in the night sky – specifically, a dragon and a scorpion.

Let’s start with the dragon, who is named Draco. Our star chart shows Draco to be a faint constellation that wraps itself around the little dipper (Ursa Minor).

In Greek mythology, Draco was a hundred-headed beast who was charged with guarding some golden apples. The superhero Hercules came along, put Draco to sleep with music, and stole the apples. Perhaps that is the origin of the saying “music soothes the savage beast.”



Draco image courtesy of


The brightest star in Draco is named Thuban. In 2500 BC, Thuban, not Polaris, was our north star. Why? Because the earth slowly wobbles as it turns – this wobble is called precession. Over time, this causes the position of celestial north to change. A diagram of how precession works is shown below.



How precession works. Courtesy of Wikipedia.



From Draco in the north, we now turn to the south to view the glorious constellation, Scorpius the Scorpion.

You can barely see Scorpius on our star chart, but under Lake County skies, this constellation shines brilliantly in the south.



A close up diagram of Scorpius.



If you own a small telescope, there is a wealth of objects to be viewed in this constellation.

In Greek mythology, Scorpius was the creature that killed Orion, the mighty hunter. Orion rules the winter skies, while Scorpius lives in the summer skies so that the two are never together and so cannot fight one another.

The brightest star in Scorpius is Antares, a huge red supergiant. In last month’s column we showed how small our Sun is compared to the star Arcturus. The following diagram shows how much larger Antares is than Arcturus.





Aside from the dragon and the scorpion, our star chart shows a number of planets inhabit July night skies. Setting in the west are Saturn and Mars. Rising in the east is the solar system’s biggest planet, Jupiter. Pluto is also in the night sky, but you need a very large telescope to see it.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory website at

On July 26, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The topic for the evening is “Gems of the Night,” a presentation about the beautiful objects visible only through a telescope. There will also be a planetarium show and telescope viewing.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


MIDDLETOWN – A discussion about implementing a busing fee in the Middletown Unified School District will continue in the future, but district officials want more input from the community before further considering the proposal.

Late last month, the district's board of trustees held a meeting in which they began discussing a proposal to charge fees for school bus ridership in order to help meet the district's skyrocketing fuel and transportation costs, as Lake County News has reported.

District Superintendent Korby Olson said the district is anticipating a 50-percent increase in its transportation budget in the coming year due to higher fuel costs.

That gave rise to a discussion about charging between $.50 and $2 a day for district bus service, which Olson said is seeing higher levels of use.

However, no parents came to share their views on the proposal at the board's June 25 meeting, Olson said, which could be attributed to the fact that summer meetings aren't as well attended due, in part, to vacations.

“We have to have parent input on this before we move forward,” Olson said.

He said the district board felt they couldn't take action until they have a better sense of what the district's parents want. So they'll plan on conducting surveys and continuing the discussion later in the year.

At the same meeting, the board held a discussion on raising developers fees, which are based on the square footage of a new home or commercial building. The district can only use fees for school building and construction.

No developers showed up at the meeting to dispute the proposal, which the board accepted, said Olson.

The district had last adjusted their rates two years ago to $2.63 for residential development and $0.42 for commercial development, said Olson.

In January the state adjusted the fees that a district can charge to $2.97 for residential development and $0.47 for commercial development, Olson added.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTH COAST – Fires burning in National Forest lands in Lake and Mendocino counties are expected to be contained this month, fire officials reported Sunday.

The blazes are among more than 1,700 lightning-caused fires that began more than two weeks ago when a reported 8,000 lightning strikes hit the state.

The Soda Complex, located on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District in remote areas to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury, was 76-percent contained on Sunday, with 5,740 acres burned, officials reported.

Fighting the fire has cost an estimated $4.9 million to date, according to Forest Service spokesman Brian LaMoure.

Growth potential on the fire remains high but only two fires – the Mill, 890 acres and 45-percent contained, and the Monkey Rock, 1,060 acres at 15-percent containment – are still burning. Fire officials estimate the Mill will be contained on July 10, and the Monkey Rock on July 15.

The 7,484-acre Yolla Bolly Complex of fires – located 20 miles west of Paskenta in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness – reached 50-percent containment on Sunday, with burnout operations continuing, according to Forest Service spokesperson Mary Christensen.

Estimated containment on the fires has been moved up to July 30. Fire suppression costs are estimated at more than $1.2 million, Christensen reported.

In neighboring Mendocino County, a complex of lightning fires reached 45-percent containment on Sunday, having burned 46,800 acres. Forty-three of 127 original fires remain active, with more than 1,700 firefighters assigned to the complex.

Officials reported that numerous evacuation warnings remain in place around the county, including for the Rockport, Cummings and Leggett communities.

Fire suppression costs to date total $21.2 million for the Mendocino Lightning Complex, Cal Fire reported.

There has been one fatality, 27 injuries and two residences destroyed in Mendocino County, according to Cal Fire. A total of 335 residences remain threatened.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKE COUNTY – With summer time comes a baby boom of sorts, what's commonly called “kitten season,” and it means a population explosion that crowds the shelters around the United States and here locally. {sidebar id=90}

In many cases, it doesn't lead to happy endings.

The Humane Society of the United States reports that kitten season is really three seasons at once, with cats giving birth to litters beginning in the spring, with the births peaking in late spring and early summer, and coming to an end in fall.

The warmer weather coincides with female cats' heat cycles, the group reports, and with unspayed and unneutered cats being in abundance all over the country – and also here in Lake County – forces coincide to cause a population explosion.

Despite the fact that the county and the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport all have adopted spay and neuter ordinances, there still are many unaltered animals in the county, according to Animal Care and Control officials.

Here in Lake County, Animal Care and Control reports that it's seeing a flood of cats and kittens making their way into the new shelter, located near the Lake County Jail.

“We're getting them in every day,” said Officer Eric Wood.

The shelter now has well over 60 kittens, Wood said. “We've already overloaded all of our rescue with them.”

That's just a drop in the bucket, according to Shelter Program Director Paula Werner. One week, the shelter saw 130 kittens come in.

She quotes statistics from the Humane Society of the United States that say an unaltered female cat and her unaltered offspring can produce 1.2 million cats in eight years. Werner said female cats can breed rapidly, able to go back into heat again immediately after pregnancy.

Despite the cute and cuddly factor, kittens present a lot of problems for shelters, especially in massive quantities.

Wood said kittens get sick very easily. “We don't have the means to medicate them all the time.”

That's why it's critical to get them into rescue care, which the shelter has been very successful in doing in recent years. Werner said in a previous interview that shelter staff have worked hard to form relationships with rescue groups, who have taken animals and helped reduce the county's euthanasia rates.

However, euthanasia is still highest in the county for cats, according to shelter statistics. In fiscal year 2006-07, 3,275 cats were impounded; of those, 2,648 were euthanized. Kitten season often only exacerbates the problem.

Many younger kittens, under 8 weeks old, have to be fed with a bottle, and if rescues don't take them they often are euthanized because the shelter doesn't have the staff to attend to them, said Wood.

The jump in population can often lead to cruelty, when people attempt to rid themselves of the animals by dumping them.

Just such a situation occurred one night last month.

On the evening of June 12, Wood got an after-hours call from the California Patrol reporting that some 30 animals – cats and kittens – had been dumped along Spruce Grove Road near Lower Lake, and that the animals were running down the side of the road.

When he got there around 10 p.m., Wood found some kind-hearted citizens trying to round up the kittens.

In all, they recovered 21 kittens – ranging in age from 6 to 10 weeks old – and two adult female cats, with some others escaping, said Wood. He estimated the kittens were from three separate litters.

“It was definitely a dump job,” said Wood.

He added, “I've never seen anyone dump that many cats at once.”

No one has yet reported seeing who dumped the animals, he said.

Most of the kittens had some upper respiratory infections but were otherwise OK, said Wood.

The animals weren't wild, he added, but had been socialized. “The 21 I brought in were friendly.”

Despite the overload on kittens, Wood said they were successful in getting them out of the shelter and into rescues. On June 13, one of the mothers and six kittens went to rescue, and more were on the way.

“They got real lucky,” he said.

Werner added that it's a felony offense, and the shelter is keenly interested in finding out who is responsible.

It's not the only recent dumping situation that's happened, said Wood. Public Works reported finding kittens dumped along Sulphur Bank Road in Clearlake Oaks not long ago.

Wood says he's sure it happens a lot more than they know about.

Anyone with information about dumping activities is asked to call Lake County Animal Care and Control, 263-0278.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MENDOCINO COUNTY – A Clearlake man received minor injuries after he was accidentally shot in an incident that occurred July 3 in Potter Valley.

Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that the 42-year-old man – whose name has so far not been released – suffered a superficial wound to the front of his groin area and a bullet hole in his pants.

Smallcomb reported that on July 3 at 1:20 a.m. the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center received a cellular 911 call of an accidental shooting that occurred at a residence in the 10000 block of Highway 20 in Potter Valley, near the Lake/Mendocino County line.

The caller reported that an adult female and adult male had been shot as a result of an accident, according to Smallcomb.

When deputies arrived, they found the 43-year-old female from Potter Valley, whose name also has not been released, lying partially inside and partially outside of a travel trailer, Smallcomb said.

The female had a through-and-through gunshot wound to her right knee, Smallcomb said. At the same time they also found the wounded man.

Based on statements and physical evidence gathered at the scene, it was determined that the female was carrying a .44 magnum single-action revolver in a holster under her left arm.

Smallcomb said she stepped into the small travel trailer and had the intent to shoot mice that were apparently scurrying around on the floor of the trailer.

When she went to draw the revolver from the holster, the revolver slipped out and fell to the floor. Upon impact with the floor, Smallcomb said the revolver fired one shot, which passed through her right knee cap, then continued upward and traveled across the front of the man's pants, where it struck a set of keys that were hanging from his belt loop.

Smallcomb said the bullet then glanced off the keys and tore a hole in the man's pants, and continued to travel between the pants and a pair of shorts he was wearing.

The bullet came to rest when it entered the coin pocket of the males pants, where it was recovered for evidence, Smallcomb said.

The female was transported by ground ambulance to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment, according to Smallcomb's report.

He added that the case was forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office for review.


LAKEPORT – The 2008-09 Lake County Grand Jury will be sworn in this week at a ceremony at the Lake County Courthouse.

The event will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 9. The courthouse is located at 255 N. Forbes St.

The following 18 individuals have been chosen to serve during the upcoming year.

Supervisorial District 1

Terry Bissonnette, Hidden Valley

Charles O’Neill-Jones, Lower Lake

Supervisorial District 2

Jesse O. Firestone Sr., Clearlake

Dave R. Johnson, Clearlake

Supervisorial District 3

Linda M. Alexander, Witter Springs (holdover from 2007-08 jury)

Joy K. Allred, Upper Lake

Richard P. Everts, Upper Lake (holdover from 2007-08 jury)

Loretta A. Krentz, Lucerne

Carolynn Manley, Lucerne

Supervisorial District 4

Virginia L. Cline, Lakeport (holdover from 2007-08 jury)

John G. Daniels, Lakeport

Kathleen H. Harrell, Lakeport (holdover from 2007-08 jury)

Phillip E. Myers, Lakeport

Lawrence Platz, Lakeport

Carol M. Vedder, Lakeport

Supervisorial District 5

Melissa Bentley, Cobb

Harold W. Dietrich, Loch Lomond

Steven Tellardin, Kelseyville

The 2007-08 Grand Jury's report is expected to be released later this month.


A burnout area in the Yolla Bolly Complex. Photo by Curtis Keetch.

NORTH COAST – After several days of little or no increases in acreage, Mendocino County's lightning fires were reported to have burned a few thousand more acres by Saturday, with firefighters continuing to slowly gain ground on those fires as well as those in the Mendocino National Forest.

The Mendocino Lightning Complex has burned 41,200 acres, led to the death of a volunteer firefighter, destroyed two homes and injured 24, according to Cal Fire statistics.

After two weeks of firefighting the complex is 40-percent contained, and more personnel continue to arrive, Cal Fire reported. On Saturday a total of 1,749 firefighters were on scene.

Adding that complex to the Walker Fire, 55,700 acres have burned across Mendocino and Lake counties in recent weeks, which doesn't count more than 12,000 more that have burned on the Mendocino National Forest.

On the forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, three of the four fires in the Soda Complex remained active Saturday, with the 2,190-acre Big Fire close to containment, while the Mill and the Monkey Rock fires continue to steadily burn, forest officials reported.

The Soda Complex is 73-percent contained, with 476 personnel assigned to it. Mop up and rehabilitation already is under way in some areas.



Igniting the burnout on the Yolla Bolly Complex using drip torches. Photo by Curtis Keetch.


On the Yolla Bolly Complex – which is in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness in Mendocino, Trinity and Tehama counties – backfires began Saturday to control that series of fires, which has blackened 7,122 acres and is 20-percent contained. Approximately 197 firefighter are assigned to that complex, which officials reported has cost more than $1 million to fight to date.

For more information visit the Forest Service Web site at or Cal Fire at

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



A field burnout briefing of the Big Hills Helitack crew just prior to burnout on the Yolla Bolly Complex. Photo by Curtis Keetch.



MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The latest updates on the fires on Forest Service lands show continued growth in acreage and a holding pattern on containment.

The Soda Complex, which has two active fires remaining out of its original four, was at 74-percent containment, growing to about 300 acres to reach a total of 6,070 acres burned, according to forest officials. Containment is estimated to occur on July 15. The fires are located to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury.

Fire activity had increased Sunday, and is expect to remain elevated due to high temperatures, Forest Service spokesperson Phebe Brown reported.

The Yolla Bolly Complex, with 22 active fires – 15 of which are contained – has burned 7,484 acres and is 50-percent contained, according to the US Forest Service's Incident Information System. All of the fires are located in remote, steep terrain in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, and are centered about 20 miles west of Paskenta.

Crews were continuing burnouts on the fires Monday, as well as continuing to build lines around the fires within the complex.

Rick Harvey’s Great Basin Interagency Incident Management Team, is managing this complex. They will turn management of the fires to Wilcock’s Alaska team on Tuesday.

Brown reported that, to date, fire suppression efforts have cost $5.3 million on the Soda Complex and $1.2 million on the Yolla Bolly Complex.

On the Mendocino Lightning Complex in Mendocino County, total containment reached 60 percent on Monday, with the number of active fires down to 39. A total of 46,880 acres have burned, with 1,686 fire personnel assigned to the fires.

The fires in the forest and in neighboring Mendocino County also sent some more smoke into Lake County's air basin on Monday.

Lake County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds said the county's air still remains in the “good” to “moderate” classifications based on Federal Air Quality Index measures. However, Reynolds said many people would agree the air isn't that good because of the smoke.

Cal Fire reported Monday that since June 20 there have been 1,781 fires in California, with 330 still active around the state. The fires have burned a total of 614,808 acres.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


LAKEPORT – The city of Lakeport's Third Street and City Hall parking lot improvement project is getting under way on Monday.

City Engineer Scott Harter reports that the project limits will be on Third Street, directly east of Main Street to the east side of Park Street, and the parking lot adjacent to City Hall.

FEDCO Construction began mobilizing and performing preparatory work last week, according to Harter.

Construction is expected to last 11 weeks, during which Third Street will remain open with the exception of 12 days for removal and repaving operations.

Harter said all affected businesses – The Ink Spot, On the Waterfront and Park Place restaurant – will remain open during construction. Alternative vehicle access for businesses on the north side of Third Street and the Third Street boat ramp is via Fourth Street and the waterfront parking lot.

Alternate vehicle access to The Ink Spot is via Second Street along the alleyway between Main and Park Streets, according to Harter.

Questions may be directed to Harter at 263-5614, extension 11.


My daughter is a very loving, caring girl. For years she has wanted to eat less meat in our household, and I was OK with that, but her meat- and carb-loving mother was less than enthusiastic about it.

A couple of months ago I had them both sit down and talk it out. The compromise came to this: We switch from carnivore to herbivore every other day.

Unfortunately the two of them are like the yin and yang parts of a hetero symbol, always opposites and very little in common except that they are parts of a whole. So for my first vegetarian dish I announced that I would make eggplant lasagna ...

“Yea! I love eggplant!” from my daughter.

“I hate eggplant!” from my wife.

Oh, this new menu is going to be fun, I think to myself while I beat my head against the refrigerator. Luckily with my foundation in Japanese and Asian cuisine I have a bunch of Buddhist recipes to fall back on. “Tofu steak” has become a regular dinner at our place, with everyone in the house enjoying it as if the name alone pleases everyone: “Tofu” for the vegetarian, and “steak” for the meat eater.

I think the thing that confuses carnivores/omnivores about vegetarians is that vegetarians have dozens of “classes” or castes, so let’s go through and define some of them to avoid confusion.

Vegans eat nothing that has anything to do with animals. This not only includes meat of any animal or sea creature, but also eggs, milk and honey (honey, like milk is a product manufactured by animals). I personally could never even come close to being vegan; either God or Darwinism has chosen to make my anatomy with eyes on the front of my head like a predator and not on the sides of my head like a prey animal, and I can’t go against that evidence. Testosterone just fortified these feelings out of cold, hard steel ... that steel then formed into the shape of a knife that can be used to track down and kill weak autotroph-eating creatures so they can be roasted over a fire and ... Sorry, I don’t know what happened there.

Anyway, lacto-vegetarians don’t eat meat or anything that could have become meat like eggs, however milk and honey are fair game. Ovo-vegetarians don’t eat meat or milk but eggs and honey are permitted. Ovo-lacto-vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of animals but the products they produce like milk, eggs, and honey are edible.

Another vegetarian group called fruitarians eat only beans, seeds, rices, fallen fruit and grains since plants are living things and shouldn’t be killed for food.

This list can also include things like semi-vegetarians who eat seafood or poultry in limited amounts but no beef, or pollo-vegetarians who eat birds but not hoofed animals.

But at this point I’m sure that you get the idea. People limit their food categories in a hundred different ways based on their beliefs about the value of life on the food chain.

My daughter has chosen her own version of vegetarianism that could be called Petting Zoo Vegetarianism. If it’s cute and cuddly it can’t be eaten. Rabbits, lamb, quail, piglets, calves, deer, are all safe in this diet, but vultures and armadillos better run and hide.

I can’t fault any person’s diet since I too have my own eating quirks, and I completely support anyone’s choice to eat whatever they want. Over time, I’m sure that readers will pick up on my dietary oddities.

Vegetarian foods are dominant in many countries due to religious/moral, economic or population reasons. We here in the United States are uniquely spoiled in our view of food. Because of the abundance of land and wealth in our society we think that meat should cover the majority of our dinner plate, while the vegetables and carbs are more for garnish than anything else.

I’ll be the first carnivore to admit that this practice will not last for long. Mankind is going to have to rely on a more plant-based diet in the future to insure that the world can stay fed. Adopting my daughter’s petting zoo vegetarianism and my wife’s every-other-day vegetarian compromise is my contribution to easing the pressure on the planet.

One quick note about the following recipe: I mix wheat flour and rice flour for the coating in this recipe. Why not use one or the other? Wheat flour is good when browning food in oil, however it doesn’t get really crisp; rice flour gets crispy when fried in oil but doesn’t brown well. By combining the two you get the best of both worlds.

Tofu steaks


One block of extra firm tofu

4 tablespoons flour (I prefer 2 tablespoons wheat flour and 2 tablespoons rice flour, mixed)

6 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons butter or your favorite oil to fry in.

Your favorite condiments or, for a more authentic Japanese feel, use chopped green onions or chives, finely grated fresh ginger and bonito flakes (if you are avoiding meat you should know that bonito flakes are dried shaved fish).

Set the tofu block on its end and cut downward through its width like you were cutting cards off of a deck, so you get three even steaks (just cutting in half leaves the steaks just a little too thick for my taste, so thirds works out best for me, but feel free to experiment).

Even with extra firm tofu, some of the moisture needs to be squeezed out or the steaks will fall apart during cooking. Lay out all three pieces separately on a kitchen towel or several sheets of paper towels and then lay another towel or several sheets of paper towels over them (about one cup of moisture is going to be squeezed out during this process so stack your paper towels accordingly).

Gently place your heaviest cutting board on top of the towel and weigh it down with some cans of soup or anything with a little weight to it, just not so much that you crush the tofu. Let this sit on your counter top for a minimum of an hour, then remove tofu and wipe up all of that liquid all over the counter top.

Gently spoon one tablespoon of soy sauce over each one of the tofu and let sit until it soaks in (a couple of minutes is all that’s needed), then flip the tofu steaks over and repeat.

Heat your butter or oil in a frying pan on medium high heat while you dredge the tofu steaks in the two-flour mixture. Gently shake off any excess flour and put tofu steaks in the heated pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides and drain momentarily on paper towels. Add condiments and serve.

You could substitute the soy sauce in this recipe for Italian salad dressing, which works quite well. If you’re OK with eating a little meat, you can marinade the steaks in strong chicken broth or even the liquid from a can of tuna for a heartier taste (call it fusion cuisine). Tofu is much like a blank canvas that you can experiment with a lot of different flavors, so have fun!

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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