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Arrange a large bowl of water next to you. Squeeze lemon into water then add squeezed lemon halves to water, too; stir well. Cut stems off artichokes so they will sit flat, then discard stems and transfer artichokes to the bowl with lemon water to prevent artichokes from discoloring.
Working with one at a time, cut off the top third of each artichoke, then clip off and discard the sharp points of the outer leaves, returning each artichoke to the lemon water as you finish.
Pour enough water into a large pot to reach a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover the pot and arrange trimmed artichokes, bottoms up, in the bottom in a single layer. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium and steam until tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Cooking time will depend on size of artichokes. When the leaves pull out easily and the base can be pierced with a knife, they're ready. Drain well and transfer to a large platter.
Meanwhile, whisk together butter, zest, juice, salt and pepper to make a lemon sauce; transfer to a bowl. Serve artichokes warm, with lemon butter sauce on the side for dipping.