To cook the most flavorful asparagus dishes with optimal texture, start by buying firm, vibrant green asparagus stalks with closed tips. Additionally, preserve the delicate flavor and bright color of this tender vegetable by peeling the tough exterior before cooking asparagus and then cooking it briefly until it's tender.
To roast whole asparagus spears, lightly peel the exterior of the stems with a vegetable peeler before laying the stalks on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, the zest of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the asparagus, and toss it to coat the stalks. Cut 1 lemon into wedges, and scatter the wedges around the pan. Roast the asparagus for six to eight minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit or until the stalks are tender.
Alternatively, cut 2 pounds of asparagus stalks into 2-inch pieces while holding a clean, sharp knife at a 45-degree angle. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the asparagus along with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Sauté the asparagus, stirring it often, for approximately three minutes until it is crisp-tender. Stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and the juice of 1 lemon. Cook it for another minute before serving the sautéed asparagus topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.