1. In a large saucepan, combine the chickpeas with the 3 whole garlic cloves, the thyme and bay leaf. Cover with 4 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until just tender, 1 3/4 to 2 hours; add more water as needed to keep the chickpeas submerged. Season with salt and simmer 10 minutes longer. Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the garlic, thyme and bay leaf.
2. Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole. Add the onion, bacon and minced garlic; cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved chickpeas, stock, reserved cooking liquid, crushed red pepper, saffron and black pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
Notes: One Serving: 570 calories, 15.6 gm total fat, 2.2 gm saturated fat, 80 gm carb.