Over the weekends, I always want to do something special for lunch. On weekdays I often only have time to throw a sandwich together or buy something on campus, but on Saturday I want something better for myself. I want to make up for all the less-than-satisfying lunches I've eaten over the course of the week with something delicious and preferably, healthy. Of course, I still don't want to spend all day making it...

    Ages ago, I saw a gorgeous panzanella on Smitten Kitchen, and ever since I have wanted to make my own version of the classic Italian salad. The versatility of panzanella really appealed to me-it's the sort of thing where you can throw in just about any vegetables you have, and use up some stale bread while you're at it. My major deviations from more traditional panzanellas were to add cubed avocado and omit the mozzarella in favor of some grated parmesan. The result was a bright, flavorful salad in which lightly toasted breadcrumbs anointed in tomato juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and avocado were set off perfectly with thin slices of fresh basil.

*serves one

A 3-inch stale piece of ciabatta, cut into 3 slices about 1 inch wide then cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
a large handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 clove of garlic, sliced into several large chunks
1/2 avocado, cubed
1 tsp lemon juice
several fresh basil leaves, rolled up and thinly sliced

    In a small bowl, drizzle olive oil over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the cubes with grated parmesan, then spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about 5 minutes, until they are lightly toasted. At the same time, in a small baking dish combine the tomatoes and garlic, and bake them at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften slightly. Return the bread cubes to the bowl and add the tomatoes, removing the garlic chunks. Add the cubed avocado and lemon juice, and stir to mix. Allow the salad to sit for about 5 minutes so the bread cubes will absorb all the juices. Add chopped basil just before serving.