Father Joe Goldsmith on How ‘Food is Love’ — With a Recipe for Risotto You’ll Love
“A friend once said to me, ‘Food is love,’ and I love learning about people’s food stories.”
A proud Virginian (most of his life), Father Joe Goldsmith oversees three parishes in central Virginia close to the state’s capital, Richmond. These include St. John Nepomucene in Dinwiddie, Sacred Heart in Prince George (where he resides) and St. James in Hopewell. Being assigned to this area of the state surely pleases him, especially since he is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond.
He recounted his Virginia-based childhood in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. He attended the Catholic school at St. Leo the Great and then attended Paul VI high school. “My family was very Catholic,” he said, “and my dad is a deacon in the Arlington Diocese and at St. John in the town of Front Royal.”
But his shared family meals have greatly impacted his life. Why cooking? He remembers how his parents cooked for the family for mealtimes together. “I have good food memories,” he said, “and all the little stories that we shared at meals.” He does admit that his dad was not a good cook — he would throw everything into a pot, and it all turned into mush, though sometimes he would cook something interesting. “I might even have said, ‘Wow, this is good,’” he said.
As he became an adult, Father Goldsmith noted that he has always loved being creative with food. Even in college, he ended up cooking for himself because the on-campus cooking was unappealing to him. “Anything I made at home was better,” he said, remembering coming home from studies and preparing foods he enjoyed every day. “I would make pizza from scratch for lunch,” he said, “and for dinner, I would put some creative elements into my dishes.” He even had a girlfriend who loved to eat as much as he did, and they would dine out and around in Richmond, taking notes on their meals.
At some point, Father Goldsmith began cooking for others, finding it very enjoyable. “As a young adult with all my hobbies,” he said, “when I spent a couple of hours cooking, it was the best gift I could give my friends. We used to plan movie parties and combine them with long meals to make an event.”
After seminary, he went to Italy and France for two weeks, and was already enchanted by their connection between food and culture and seeing European culture really focusing on cooking. That impression has continued, and now he hosts dinners for friends and parishioners. “I love spending an entire day in the kitchen,” he said, “and then eating together from 6 p.m. until midnight and being all together. That is when magic happens…The mealtime and the dinners — I love that togetherness at table. A friend once said to me, ‘Food is love’ and I love learning about people’s food stories.”
One wonders why someone so food-oriented did not become a chef but instead, a priest. For Father Goldsmith, it was because he listened to God. “I really had a strong sense of the call to priesthood when I was in college,” he said. “I woke up in the middle of night in 1998 and I heard God say ‘I want you to be my priest.’ … I began a journey and the calling wasn’t going away. I reached out to my vocation director and then started meeting different seminarians.
“I began to understand that God can use all our talents,” he said, “and here I am in the center of our faith with the Eucharist, which is a sacred and timeless coming together around the table of the Lord.”
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Serves 4. Prep time 45 minutes.
Risotto is a classic, slow-cooked Italian rice dish. The basic four ingredients — rice, stock, Parmesan, and wine — are easily complemented with a variety of flavors. Although often served in broth, this recipe envisions heating the risotto until it thickens; then it can be molded into a firm shape with a tea cup or measuring cup. The ingredients are flexible but please use traditional Arborio rice.
- 2 cups of Arborio rice
- 2 quarts chicken stock (Kitchen Basics has great flavor. Unsalted is okay; it just more salt at the end to taste)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated or from a block.
- Dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
Salt, cracked pepper and olive oil
Risotto blends and enhances flavors, so pick a few extras to your liking:
- Dice onion, shallots, or garlic and add at the beginning. They will melt into the flavor and texture of the dish.
- Use edamame, sweet peas, asparagus or chopped mushrooms during the last few minutes of cooking. These vegetables should stay firm.
- Pick a colorful beet, chop and sauté in olive oil to add color and a hint of sweetness
- Add herbs at the end, and don’t forget to garnish: rosemary, thyme, scallions, chives
Use one saucepan to heat the chicken stock that will be added slowly as the rice cooks. The dry rice will double in size when done. Avoid rinsing the rice so that the starches will make for a firmer risotto in the end.
Hear another saucepan to medium, add rice and a 1tbsp of oil (enough to coat each grain). Heat and stir for several minutes, just beginning to cook the rice. Turn down to medium low (3 or 4), add a cup of stock to the rice (or two if it soaks right up).
The rice will absorb the stock as it cooks. Keep the stock hot and continue adding until the 2 quarts is used. The rice will begin to expand. When the stock gets low, test the rice for doneness. It should be al dente but not hard in the center.
When the rice is almost done, add half a cup of dry wine. Wait until absorbed and then add the parmesan cheese. At this point, the rice will not cook anymore, only begin to thicken. Let sit on low heat with an occasional stir for another 10-15 minutes. Finishing vegetables can also be folded in at this point. Let the rice cool slightly.
For serving, find a teacup, measuring cup, or other suitable shape. Spray with nonstick or wipe with butter so the sticky rice will come out easily. Add in some of the vegetables at this point so they get pressed into the rice. Plate the mound of risotto (it should be quite firm). Add any remaining elements to the plate; garnish and serve.