Wednesday Will: Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta

Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta, otherwise called Without the Ham

  “They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.” The Merchant of Venice, 2.1

Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta is based upon two intertwined, iconic works: Italian bruschetta, or toast, and televised Texas Hold’em tournaments. Though scholars have pointed out the seeming influence of other recipes on the dish such as Marlowe’s The Tomato of Malta, Boccaccio’s Breads and Il Pecorone – ‘The Big Sheep’, a book of appetizer recipes attributed to Ser Giovanni of Florence – the only clear influence we the editors see might be from Dame Cook of Wisconsin and Ser Gianni of Cleveland’s Pasta Noir.

The recipe itself is probably a natural development from Shakespeare’s starving university days when for him finding paper money in his pocket was unheard of. Bruschetta is cheap eats, an earlier, healthier Italian version of Burger King. His usage of lemon zest, fresh Robiola cheese and avocado, however, add a surprising depth and stratification of flavor to more traditional versions of the dish.

The Ingredients of the recipe:

Good bread, enough to feed some hungry Christian men and women and infidels
Garlic, enough to flavor the bread
Extra-Virgin olive oil, enough to dribble over the bread
Pepper and salt and hot pepper and basil
Lemon essence
Diced ripe tomatoes
Robiola or other fresh cream cheese
Anchovies, enough to pucker your mouth
Mozzarella, enough to melt over the anchovies
A ripe avocado

A hearty pork sausage
Some creamed potatoes
Some well-boiled broccoli
A pound of flesh
A good disguise or two
Other various ismsThe Chefs of the Recipe:
Shakespeare – the card dealer
Jessica – daughter of one of the card players, girl friend to another
Portia – a card shark in her spare time
Bassanio – another player, but good-lookin’ and sensitive
The Prince of Morocco – ditto. But really full of himself

The Prince of Aragon – ditto. But even more full of himself
Shylock – another card shark. Full time
Lorenzo – see Bassanio

Graziano & Solanio – men. And commentators
Antonio – another man. Another commentator. Invested all of his savings with Bernie Madoff

Nerissa – falls for Graziano. Has more practical things to do than play cards

serves Venice

Act I, sc. 1

Texas Hold’em tournament: Venice. Sitting at the table are: Bassanio a good-lookin’ guy with almost no chips; The Prince of Morocco, a cool-lookin’ black hunk wearing lots of gold and hip-hop clothes; Portia, ‘the attorney’ disguised as a man and wearing sunglasses; The Prince of Aragon, a well-groomed white guy wearing an expensive suit and watch; Shylock, a short, ugly-ish old guy wearing a beanie, with lots of well-stacked chips in front of him; and finally Lorenzo, who has the 2nd smallest mound of chips. Enter Graziano, Antonio and Solanio, commentators. Finally enter Nerissa. She looks at Graziano from across the room

Graziano: (looking back at Nerissa) Yo’, Tony, check out the hooters that just walked in.

Antonio: Jerry, please. We’re live in 20 seconds.

Solanio: Geez, Tone, lighten up, will ya’? You’ve been moping’ around like you’re a Browns fan or something.

Antonio: Yeah, you’re probably right. Sorry guys. I’ve just been feeling so bummed lately. I dunno’… maybe it’s this global warming and all. It’s like you can’t be sure about anything anymore. Anyway, we’re on 3, 2, 1….

Solanio: A welcomed return to one and all
To this our Texan-held card tournée in
Lovely Venice. In this hand only the
Mysterious attorney and his princely
Sun-tanned opponent on the table remain.

Graziano: Our over-reaching royal player
Is convinced his two queens are to enough
To reign in this pot’s crowning chips. Yet the
Final card has yet to be o’erthrown.
And look there! ‘Tis a diamond’s three! Now the attorney’s color and scale are both complete. Oh thwarted destiny, that such a low card could undo such high status.

Antonio: All’s in for our unsuspecting blue blood.

Solanio: The attorney’s straightest flush is revealed, and so breaks the prince’s royal bank. The deposed Moroccan bows and takes his leave as the lawyer reaches over and takes his chips.

Graziano: Stay, I prithee, for God’s sake. After these
Our unhumble commercial messages
There are yet many sad stories to tell….annnd, we’re off.

Antonio: Crap.

Solanio: What’s wrong?

Antonio: Oh, I know I shouldn’t have but…I bet 3 grand at 3 to 1 that that old Jewish card-shark wouldn’t win – again.

Graziano: Whoa, that was a risky bet. Shylock’s been pretty consistent. Anyway, chill. There’s 3 other players. Plus Bassanio’s still in, even if it don’t look like it’s gonna’ be his day.

Graziano and Nerrisa exchange flirting glances

Graziano: Hey, guys, I’m – ah – goin’ to the kitchen and get something to eat. You want me to bring anything back?

Solanio: Yeah, I’m starving. Get a tray of some of that Italian toast.

Graziano: OK. Be back in a jiff.

Exit Graziano and Nerissa. Roar from the crowd. Flourish. Aragon stands up from the poker table and exits

Solanio: Wow, that was fast. That lawyer guy’s really good. OK, we’re on.

Antonio: When you our treasured audience did leave
Us to attend your nachos and dip of
Halapenioed cheese, 5 men remained.

Solanio: But in the time between the forming of
A word and its passage through a mistress’
Well-formed lips, our keen lawyer did sue Spain’s
First son. With clever wit and cleverer
Cards he did dispatch the trial and hand.

Antonio: So now the blood of Aragon, playing the odds wrong, has from the poker table gone.

Solanio: At least, departing after his darker royal cousin, he may claim the silver and not the gold blinking idiot’s reward. Yet a potent bankrupt portrait of vanity did both men make.

Antonio: Yes, and between the graceless cards that have of late given Lorenzo a slow adieu to his diminishing chips, and Bassanio’s too sensitive, unbluffing face, it would appear the game will soon be down to a Christian lawyer and a heathen hustler.

Solanio: Now the card shrunken Lorenzo takes courage and with his paired two of hearts rails against Shylock’s scriptured, hidden hand. But what’s this? Shylock’s creeping daughter has stepped into the scene.

Enter Jessica from the audience behind Shylock. She looks at his cards, then steps around and tries to get Lorenzo’s attention as she shakes her head. Shylock notices and complains to the dealer, who indicates that Lorenzo has forfeit the game

Antonio: And so Lorenzo makes a rapid end to his swan-like fade, ceding his last chips to Shylock.

Solanio: The clever aged man has played well, first teaching the table how to bluff, and now how a cheating bluffer should be answered. Tis a shame he is an infidel. I have never seen so shrewd a mind in so unkind a character. It’s like watching the devil.

Antonio: A devil that uses poker for his pricey purpose.

Solanio: As our producers use pricey publicity to profit from our poker party?

Antonio: Peter Piper picked a pack?

Solanio: I yield to the greater nonsense. Please, do return after our wits have recovered from this witless banter after these wittier messages…an-n-nd, we’re off.

Graziano returns with Nerissa, each holding a big tray of freshly toasted bruschetta

Solanio: Finally! I’m so hungry I’d even eat poached peppers. What you got?

Graziano: No peppers this time. Tomato and basil with Robiola and grated lemon rind; plain tomato and basil; sausage, broccoli and creamed potatoes; anchovies and melted mozzarella; and just plain olive oil.

Solanio: And the garlic?

Graziano: Rubbed on fresh. Oh, and this one has some avocado. You want some Tony?

Antonio: No thanks. I’m not hungry. Plus with your two mouths full someone’s gotta’ do the commentary. And 3,2…
Gentle viewing friends, a happy return.
Bassanio has just broke his win-less
Streak with well-played winning cards, aided by
The lawyer’s odd, wit-less folding plea.
As the game swiftly deals itself to its
Flattened, singular time of crunch,
Sal and Greg are here crunching the hunger
Of their manly bellies with a manly
Crunchy toast. I hope they leave some for me.

Solanio: ‘Tis to us Christian men this world falls, crunch and all.

Nerissa: Hey there, buck-o. Have not everyone, Jew, Christian, man, woman….

Solanio: Eat, pray, love? (Pause. Nerissa, Graziano and Antonio look at him without saying anything) Sorry.

Nerissa: As I was saying, has not everyone
In our large studio audience eyes?
Have they not noses, stomachs, teeth, senses,
hungers? If you feed them, will they eat not?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what
It means to me. Graziano, start passing
The loaded trays around. Or no nook-nook
Will you find in my bed tonight, capisce?

Solanio: Nook-nook?

Graziano shrugs his shoulders, then takes the bruschetta into the audience

Antonio: Methinks our good Graziano has despite himself found a beautiful, unbonded bride-to-be. As in the game, here in our weekly poker program anything can happen. The outcome remains hidden ‘till the fattest of ladies sings the highest of notes. Just as Bassanio’s apparent going-out-of-business sale has been dis-inventoried by his latest hand’s well-transacted full-priced bluff.Solanio: Indeed. The last hand was the first hand where the lawyer’s hands seemed tied. It seemed almost as if he wanted Bassanio’s hand on top of his own.Antonio: Smelling blood with the new deal, Shylock has now swooped in for his pound of flesh.Solanio: Pound of flesh? Never heard that one before.

Antonio: Yeah, well, I read a little. Anyway. What’s this? Bassanio has all-ed himself into this surprising final pot. Now each one of his chips is in.

Solanio: And it does look as if Shylock has both Bassanio and the lawyer by their hips. The spaded jack on the table like Odysseus leads Shylock’s straight line of soldiers stealthily behind their Trojan defenses. Fortune’s misfortune has Bassanio holding 2 of the remaining jacks. So barring a knighted poker he hath over-esteemed his own readiness, and like Troilus and Troy so he and his carded house will fall from Shylock’s hidden advance.

Antonio: The hand and game do seem ended. Yet our lawyer holds two queens. And what’s this? The 6th card now gives him a 3rd. Shylock pauses not to reflect: showing no mercy he pushes all his ducats in the centered mound.

Solanio: And so the lawyer to match the bonded wager must place all of his chips on the table. The 7th river card flows…and reveals another queen! Poker! The Attorney has won! Do you believe in miracles?

Flourish. Shouts. Confetti. Antonio jumps around like a happy maniac

Antonio: Yee-hoo!

Shylock looks dejected. Portia goes over and gives him 3,000 worth of chips, then takes off her disguise, turns, takes Bassanio in her arms, dips him, and gives him a long kiss on the lips. Nerissa follows, doing the same with Graziano, then Jessica with Lorenzo

Solanio: What a lovely, lively finish. All’s well in this week’s well-ended game. Next week we’ll be in Verona with both some old players and 2 notorious, local gentlemen. Until then, adieu…

End recipe


The real recipes:


For the base:
Sliced good bread
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves sliced in two
The idea here is to get the best bread you can find, fresh Italian country or Portuguese loaves, slice it according to your own taste, toast it until begins to turn brown and crusty, and then rub the garlic across the crunchy bread while it’s still warm. Then dribble a few drops of good olive oil over each slice, and add a pinch of salt. At this point you can even put Kraft Maccheroni and cheese on top and it’ll still taste good.For the first bruschetta:
1 freshly diced tomato
Ripped or roughly sliced fresh basil
Freshly grated lemon rind
A dash of ground pepperoncino
Robiola or other fresh cream cheese
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Take all the ingredients except for the cheese and mix well, then set aside a minute as you spread a very thin layer of cheese across the base toast. Then spoon the mixture on top. Makes two pieces of toast. Serve with beer or any chilled light red or white wine, or with ‘mezzo e mezzo’: half 7-up, half red wine. You could crumble some toast into the beer like they did in Shakespeare’s time. Nah.For the second bruschetta:
2-4 anchovy filets under oil
2-4 slices of mozzarella, as fresh if possible
2 fresh zucchini flowers, optional
Place one or two of the filets on each piece of toast, then layer the flowers and the mozzarella on top. Place in a broiler just until the cheese melts over, then remove and grate some black pepper on top if you like it. Makes two.For the third bruschetta:
2 flavored sausage links, pork, kosher, turkey, whatever, as long as it’s good
1 small broccoli
1 creamed potato
Olive oil
Fry up the broken pieces of meat in a teaspoon of olive oil. Boil well the broccoli, only the green flowers, and drain. Boil the potato, then mash, adding cream until it becomes a sauce. Season and flavor as you will, with thyme, cinnamon, chives, etc., or with nothing. Mix all the ingredients when ready, taste for salt and pepper, then spoon it over the toast. Makes 4-5 crunchy slices.

link – the play: 

link – the food:

or link, from the gentyll manly cokere, a different toast with capons and sweet almond saffron milk:

Pasta Noir. It’s free, it has real recipes, and it may be the only recipe book with bloopers… ebook:

3 thoughts on “Wednesday Will: Shylock’s Ham and Cheese Bruschetta

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