We present an alternative to the Kohn-Sham formulation of density-functional theory for the ground-state properties of strongly interacting electronic systems. The idea is to start from the limit of zero kinetic energy and systematically expand the universal energy functional of the density in powers of a "coupling constant" that controls the magnitude of the kinetic energy. The problem of minimizing the energy is reduced to the solution of a strictly correlated electron problem in the presence of an effective potential, which in our theory plays the same role as the Kohn-Sham potential plays in the traditional formulation. We discuss several schemes for approximating the energy functional, and report preliminary results for low-density quantum dots. © 2009 The American Physical Society.