I was recently commissioned by a website that has surprisingly little to do with video games to write an article about Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, a delightful and frankly bizarre adventure game that Hudson published for the NES (it’s on Virtual Console too, if you want it).
For those who haven’t played the game, it’s about an armed rebellion of fruits and vegetables taking on a twisted dictator that is selling them out to farmers for reasons that are never made entirely clear.
It’s got some great self-referential humor, jaunty music, and some of the most memorable characters in the NES library. Characters so memorable that you just kind of want to cut them up and eat them, which is what we’re going to do.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (serves two)
3 tbsp Peanut Village oil
1 tbsp Percy Persimmon vinegar
2 cups fresh Spinach Heights, washed and roughly cut
1/2 red bell Sgt. Pepper, diced
1 cup grape Princess Tomatoes, halved vertically
1/2 Sir Cucumber, peeled, sliced and quartered
1 clove Garlic Wanderer, minced
1/2 cup Minister Pumpkin seeds, roasted
1 bag frozen Mr. Corn
First we’ll prepare our vinaigrette, since it’s going to benefit from sitting around while you prepare the rest of the salad. Since oil and vinegar don’t like each other very much, we’re going to need to create an emulsion. You can do that with a whisk if you’re a masochist, but if you’re like me you’ll use a blender; or, better yet, a food processor.
Percy the Persimmon is the most useless sidekick in the history of video games. He likes to randomly throw away your inventory items, tip waiters your money for no reason at all, and give you bad directions.
Since persimmons are way out of season, we went with a persimmon vinegar for this recipe. What, can’t find that at your neighborhood market? Take a trip down to your local Korean grocer, they’ve got a ton of the stuff.
Pour your liquified Percy into your food processor, close up the lid, and get the blades spinning. Open the chute on top and slowly start incorporating your peanut oil until they start to come together.
Peanut Village is the creepiest city in the game. The peanut citizens here have houses and gates made of peanuts. The streets are paved in peanut shells. The corner store sells peanuts to eat. Times are so tough that they not only resort to cannibalism, they use their dead friends as lumber.
We went with a peanut oil because of its relatively minor flavor, and because actual peanuts are not allowed on my salad.
Once the liquid emulsifies into a cloudy consistency, introduce half of your minced garlic into the processor until it’s all integrated, along with a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh pepper.
The Garlic Wanderer is a homeless guy who sleeps on the bench at Orange Park. He has information for you, but only if you give him coffee and a donut. The coffee can be bought, the donut is found in a bathroom trashcan. This game is awesome.
Our garlic will provide a nice bite to our otherwise mellow dressing.
Let your vinaigrette sit around at room temperature for at least a half hour, in order to help the flavors meld.
Meanwhile, get out your favorite pan and saute the diced bell pepper and the other half of your minced garlic until they soften and just start to brown. Normally I’d do this in butter, but since there’s no butter in the Salad Kingdom I went with vegetable oil to keep consistent.
Sgt Pepper is the warden of the game’s prison. Like all of the law enforcement in the game, he’s paid off by the evil Minister Pumpkin, and is hateful for no particular reason.
The red pepper is going to provide a significant flavor boost to the mellow flavors of the corn.
Run your frozen corn under some cold water to thaw it out and bring it back to life. We want it to taste a little bit of life before we introduce it to the fire.
Mix the corn and the pepper & garlic mixture together in a large bowl. Spread the entire mixture flat on a baking sheet (on some aluminum foil, if you want to avoid some unnecessary cleanup later), and place the entire thing under your oven’s broiler for 15-20 minutes, or until the corn starts shifting from yellow to a delicious golden.
Mr. Corn lives alone on the mountains outside of Saladoria, the closest thing to a major city in the Salad Kingdom. When you talk to him he tells you about how much he hates the city; when you talk to him again, he pretends like he can’t hear you. Mr. Corn is awesome.
Since Mr. Corn is the coolest dude in the game, he’s the star ingredient of our recipe.
Transfer your now-scorched mixture back into your large bowl and toss in the tomatoes and cucumber, folding them in carefully.
Sir Cucumber is technically the hero of the game, but he makes Percy do everything for the most part. He carries a sword he never actually uses, and his only motivation seems to be the possibility of marrying Princess Tomato.
Princess Tomato is the damsel in distress, being held in Minister Pumpkin’s castle fortress. Like Sir Cucumber she has no discernible personality.
Combined, our couple provides some crunch and sweetness to an otherwise squishy salad.
Lay out your spinach on your plates. They’ll provide a nice bedding for the rest of the ingredients.
OK, so this one isn’t a character, it’s a place. Spinach Heights is where Sir Cucumber’s adventure begins, it’s the first level of the game, surrounded by Lake Quench and the gates into Saladoria.
In keeping with that theme, our spinach will provide a place for our cast to hang out and have their culinary adventure.
Lay out your mixture on top of the bed of spinach. Drizzle your vinaigrette over the entire thing; there’s not much of it, but its intense flavor will spread itself out just fine. Finish everything off by sprinkling the pumpkin seeds on top.
Minister Pumpkin is the evil dictator in the game. He lives in a giant castle fortress where he keeps imprisoned princesses that he tries to force to marry his weird son. He also works with human farmers and for some reason wants all vegetables to die and be eaten.
Since he likes to be in control, we’re spreading him on top of the entire Salad Kingdom.
Serve with garlic bread, eat with fork, get compliments from significant other.
It should look something like this.
-Frank Cifaldi hates the city.